A majority of the members of the U.S. Senate can change their procedural rules. Today that body did just that, in a reaction to republican minority obstruction, in ridding the body of the filibuster for district court federal judgeships, appellate court judgeships, and administration appointments subject to Senate approval. Bear in mind, a majority of senators must still approve these appointments.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D) was one of the members of the Senate who finally had enough of the unprecedented republican minority obstruction and who voted for the rule change.
Meanwhile, a few people have come down with a case of pearl clutching vapors, via Twitter:
@clairecmc I’ll remember your vote on the filibuster rule when election day is here. You’re Harry Reids vote, right? 2:42 PM – 21 Nov 13
Uh, you’re gonna have to wait until 2018. It’s going to be a while.
Tessa M. Harper @TessaHarper2
@clairecmc Today you put another nail in the coffin of your political career 7:23 PM – 21 Nov 13
Again, it’s a long wait to 2018.
It’s so comforting to know that republican senators agree that the filibuster is one of the most important and inviolable constitutional prerogatives of that body. Oh, wait…
Almost three years ago we asked Senator McCaskill (D) about filibuster reform:
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): a conversation with bloggers in Kansas City (January 20, 2011)
….Blue Girl: One in nine federal judgeships, first question here, uh, they, you know, Congress, the hundred eleventh adjourned before the Senate could even consider hundreds of bills, uh, nothing’s been getting done, uh, this did not happen because it takes sixty votes to break a filibuster but because the minority can force the entire Senate to waste up to thirty hours ever, ever, every time the Senate holds a vote. What reforms do you support to stop this obstruction of even the most uncontroversial business?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Um, well the good news is that we did get twenty-two of them through, um, judges through, uh, by, by unanimous consent right before we adjourned. So, that’s good. Um, I do think the secret hold thing is really important because if you own it then you gotta explain it. And what happens is these guys hold these things secretly and then they, of course, vote for the nominees when they’re for, forced to.
Blue Girl: Right.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): So, you having the ability just to gum things up without anybody ever taking ownership is a huge problem. I am optimistic that we are gonna get the rule change on secret holds. Um, I think that is really hard for the other side to justify as they’re preaching transparency and accountability. I don’t know how they don’t accept a change in the rules to do away with the secret hold. And I think you do away with the secret hold it has an amazing ability to clean some of this stuff up. Now, do we make the changes in the filibuster? I would love to see the people who are filibustering have to be the ones to produce the forty. I’d love to see the people who are doing the filibustering have to hold the floor. I’d love for the people to see an actual filibuster.
Blue Girl: Yeah.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Instead of the procedural way they’ve done it, which is they quietly object and then they kind of skulk off and the majority is left there to hold the floor and, and for the thirty hours and the staff [crosstalk] is there and so [crosstalk]…
Blue Girl: They should read about the Polish Sejm.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Uh, yeah. So, so, um, but the question is, are we willing to break what has been traditional precedent in the Senate and change the rules by a simple majority vote? And once we do that then we need to realize that it can always be done. And that means that the Republicans could do the same thing if they took the majority in two years. And we have to realize the rules they may want to change may not be as reasonable and modest as the rule changes we want. [crosstalk]
Michael Bersin, Show Me Progress: But does, but does anybody expect that, you know, given their past behavior that they wouldn’t do that anyway?
Blue Girl: Yeah.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): I think it’s really hard for them to do that anyway. I think it’s very hard. I think, um, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s kind of what happened with the nuclear option. As you remember, there was a group of Republicans that wanted to do this when Democrats, uh, were blocking Bush’s judicial nominees. And it was in fact a group of moderate Republicans that said, no, we’re not gonna do this. And it didn’t happen. If it had happened I don’t know, you know, we probably would have had some significant rule changes along the lines that a lot of people are talking about now. You know, the Republicans make the point, and it is a valid point, how often we fill the tree. Um, we have filled the tree a lot. We have not given the Republicans an opportunity to offer amendments and so it’s almost like an escalating warfare here. Um, and the reason that we fill the tree is because they’re, I think the leadership thought it was a good idea to keep us from having to waste time on voting on amendments that were not germane. What I affectionately call the gotcha amendments. And [crosstalk]…
Blue Girl: Poison pills.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): The, yeah, poison pills. Um, at the end of the day. It’s probably what you signed up for when you go to the United States Senate, that you’ve got to cast difficult votes. And I’m one of the senators that is encouraging leadership to not always fill the tree, to allow open amendment process. Um, so, we’ll see what happens on the rules. But I, I’m gonna be surpri, we’ve all signed a letter saying we want these rule changes. And I am supporting these rule changes. And I’m hopeful these rule changes happen. Um, but if they don’t I think we’ve got to, you know, decide, um, how far are we willing to go and what are the consequences of that long term for the Senate and for the minority, not just in the current scenario….
Here’s the thing, anyone who thinks a republican majority in the Senate wouldn’t get rid of the filibuster (for everything) at their first opportunity is delusional.
It took long enough for the current Democratic majority to realize just that.