John Boehner and the Democrats in the House of Representatives are always invoking the Hastert rule to justify keeping bills from being brought to the floor for consideration. What on earth is the Hastert rule? Which party thought of that? Well it’s all on the internet of course. Dennis Hastert is the namesake give credit for the Hastert rule and he was, of course, a Republican. The Hastert rule allows the Speaker of the House to declare that if a vote doesn’t have a majority of the majority in favor of the bill it cannot come up for a vote. Does that seems kosher to you, and by kosher I mean Constitutional?
I am in favor of making both the Hastert rule and the 60 vote filibuster go away. We all can see how much business gets done in Congress with these agenda blockers to fall back on. As you might guess, I am vindicated to learn that we owe both of these strategies to the GOP. These are the tools of obstructionism.
From April to June 2010, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration held a series of monthly public hearings entitled “Examining the Filibuster” to examine the history and use of the filibuster in the Senate. The Committee held the first such hearing, entitled “History of the Filibuster 1789–2008” on April 22. It held the second hearing, entitled “The Filibuster Today and Its Consequences”, on May 19. On June 23, the Committee held the third hearing, entitled “Silent Filibusters, Holds and the Senate Confirmation Process”.
On December 10, 2010, Independent democratic socialist Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont began a “Tax Cut Filibuster” at 10:25 am and finished at 6:59 pm later that day. on the floor of the Senate. Sanders’ office said the intention was to “speak as long as possible against a tax deal between the White House and congressional Republicans.
In response to the use of the filibuster in the 111th Congress, all Democratic senators returning to the 112th Congress, signed a petition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, requesting that the filibuster be reformed, including abolishing secret holds and reducing the amount of time given to post-cloture debate.
On December 6, 2012, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader, became the first senator to filibuster his own proposal. Without giving a lengthy speech, he invoked the rules of filibuster on his bill to raise the passage threshold to 60 votes. McConnell had attempted to force theopposition Democrats, who had a majority in the Senate, to refuse to pass what would have been a politically costly measure, but one that would nonetheless solve the current ongoing debt ceiling deadlock. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid(D-NV) chose to call a vote on the proposal regardless, McConnell immediately invoked the rules of filibusters on his own proposal, effectively doing the first self-filibuster in Senate history.
On March 6, 2013, Senator Rand Paul launched a talking filibuster to stall John Brennan’s nomination confirmation vote for the position of Director of the CIA demanding an answer from the Obama Administration to the question: “Should a President be allowed to target, and kill an American by drone attack, on American soil, without due process?” John Brennan was considered to be the main architect of the drone program. After 12 hours and 52 minutes of talking, it became the 9th longest filibuster in U.S. history.
Negotiations between the two parties resulted in two packages of amendments to the rules on filibusters being approved by the Senate on January 25, 2013. Changes to the standing orders affecting just the 2013-14 Congress were passed by a vote of 78 to 16, allowing the Senate majority leader to prohibit a filibuster on a motion to begin consideration of a bill. Changes to the permanent Senate rules were passed by a vote of 86 to 9. The changes occurred through Senate Resolution 15 and Senate Resolution 16; Senate Resolution 15 applies only to the 113th session, while Senate Resolution 16 changed two standing rules of the Senate.
The series of changes to the filibuster rules announced represented a compromise between the major reforms put forward by some Democratic senators and the changes preferred by Republican senators. Those seeking reform, including Democrats and liberal interest groups, had originally proposed a variety of strong reforms including: ending the filibuster completely; banning the use of filibusters on the motion to proceed; re-introducing the “talking filibuster” where the minority would have to remain on the Senate floor and speak in order to impede passage of a vote; banning the use of filibusters on House-Senate conferences; and forcing the minority to produce 41 votes in order to block cloture. These more extensive reforms of the filibuster could only have been implemented by a decision from the Senate’s presiding officer declaring it unconstitutional.
The new rules remove the requirement of 60 votes in order to begin debate on legislation and allow the minority two amendments to measures that reach the Senate floor, a change implemented as a standing order that expires at the end of the current term. In the new rules, the amount of time to debate following a motion to proceed has been reduced from 30 hours to four. Additionally, a filibuster on the motion to proceed will be blocked if a petition is signed by eight members of the minority, including the minority leader. For district court nominations, the new rules reduce the required time before the nominee is confirmed after cloture from 30 hours to two hours. Under the new rules, if senators wish to block a bill or nominee after the motion to proceed, they will need to be present in the Senate and debate. Following the changes, 60 votes are still required to overcome a filibuster to pass legislation and confirm nominees and the “silent filibuster”—where senators can filibuster even if they leave the floor—remained in place.
Following the announcement of the new rules, Senator Dick Durbin, who was involved in the negotiations, stated that the deal reached was true agreement between the majority and minority leaders, and was overwhelmingly supported by Senate Democrats. However, the agreement was negatively received by liberal interest groups including CREDO, Fix the Senate Now, a coalition of approximately 50 progressive and labor organizations, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, both of whom had advocated for eliminating the “silent filibuster” on the grounds that it allows Republicans to filibuster progressive bills. Liberal independent Senator Bernie Sanders argued that the requirement for 60 votes to pass legislation makes it “impossible” to deal with the crises faced by the United States. Conservatives also criticized the reforms, arguing that the changes negatively impacted the minority party. In particular, Heritage Action for America argued that reducing the length of time for debate allows senior lawmakers to “avoid accountability”. Additionally, Senator Rand Paulcriticized the rules change for limiting the “ability of Senators to offer amendments”.
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This is the view from the cheap seats.
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