Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Time to flush the filibuster rule

I've been griping about the Senate filibuster rule all year. Now that Joe Lieberman - remember Joe, the "Independent Democrat" who defeated the Democratic Senate candidate in Connecticut and who supported John McCain for President even during the primary season and was welcomed by to the Democratic caucus with open arms after the 2008 election? - is saying he will support a Republican filibuster against any meaningful health care reform, it's time for President Obama and Harry Reid to cut out the excuse-making and whining and pandering to the insurance lobby and get a health care reform bill passed with a solid public option. And if they need to abolish the Senate filibuster rule to do it, Wednesday sounds like a good day for that to happen. If not tonight.

In 2005, the Republicans threatened what the pundits called the "nuclear option", i.e., abolishing the filibuster rule by majority vote in order to overcome Democratic filibusters of some of their worse judicial nominees. That bold Maverick McCain got all mavericky and joined in with 13 other members from "both sides of the aisle" and put together a "bipartisan" lovefest of the kind that the Cult of High Broderism adores. The result? The filibuster rule was technically preserved. And the Republicans pretty much got everything they wanted. Another way to put it: the result was that the Democratic filibuster was defeated by effectively abolishing the filibuster rule for that vote.

To his adoring press fans, this was another sign of McCain's mavericky maverickness. That is, he wouldn't agree to vote with the Democrats to preserve the holy filibuster rule. But he would do a mavericky stunt to abolish the filibuster on this issue and get the Republicans what they wanted. Some Republicans were still grumpy at the Maverick for doing this, as explained in this article by Distrust of McCain Lingers Over ’05 Deal on Judges Carl Hulse New York Times 02/25/08

Even some colleagues now backing Mr. McCain consider the judicial agreement a sore subject. “We had the votes to put both parties on the spot that whoever is president, Republican or Democrat, has a right to appoint and we have the right to vote up or down,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and a former Judiciary Committee chairman.

Mr. McCain and his allies say they remain proud of the deal they cut because it avoided a potential constitutional crisis in the Senate and led to the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices named by President Bush, as well as several federal appeals court judges. They say there is no certainty that Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican who was then the Senate majority leader, had the votes to win approval of his rules change, which was dubbed the nuclear option because of the chaos it was predicted to cause.

With the possibility of a Democratic White House and Congress in the future, Mr. McCain said protecting the right of the minority party to force the majority to produce 60 votes to confirm an objectionable judge might not seem like such a bad idea.

“Find me a Republican senator who now supports 51 votes for the confirmation of a judge,” Mr. McCain said. [my emphasis]
Or, to put it another way, if give-'em-whine-Harry Reid had been so desperate to nominally preserve the filibuster rule, he wouldn't have to deal with Republican filibusters today.

But Reid's one-day stand as a Democratic partisan on Monday seems to have relieved him of those unnatural partisan impulses. After getting kicked in the teeth by Joe Lieberman, after sniveling in the dirt to get good ole Joe to stay in the Democratic caucus, Reid if full of praise for his old buddy Joe. And as Alex Koppelman relates in Reid: "Joe Lieberman is the least of Harry Reid's problems" Salon 10/27/09, Reid is still oh-so-grateful to Joe for helping him get rolled in 2005 on the "nuclear option" threat:

"I don't have anyone that I have worked harder with, have more respect for in the Senate than Joe Lieberman. As you know, he's my friend. There are a lot of senators, Democrat and Republicans, who don't like part of what's in this bill that we went over to CBO. We're going to see what the final product is. We're not there yet. Sen. Lieberman will let us get on the bill, and he'll be involved in the amendment process," Reid said.

"Some of you will recall one reason that we were able to solve the problem with the nuclear option -- I write about it in my book -- is I called Joe Lieberman to my office and said, 'Joe, I want you to join -- I want you to join the enemy and get us out of this deal.' And he did. I have the greatest confidence in Joe Lieberman's ability as a legislator. And he will work with us when this gets on the floor, and I'm sure he'll have some interesting things to do in the way of an amendment. But Joe Lieberman is the least of Harry Reid's problems." [my emphasis]
Two thing urgently need to happen in the Senate: the Democrats need to abolish the filibuster rule so they can pass real health care reform, and the Democrats need to can Harry Reid as Majority Leader.

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