Senate Democrats Again Voluntarily Allow the DISCLOSE Act to Fail

Today the Democrats in the U.S. Senate voluntarily allowed the DISCLOSE Act to fail, again. This is the bill that would require disclosure of the sources of some independent expenditures in races for U.S. Congress and President.

The Democrats allowed the Republicans to filibuster the bill. The vote to end the filibuster (called cloture) was 51-45 in favor of ending the filibuster and thus allowing a vote on the bill itself. The chair then declared that the cloture motion failed, because it requires a 60% affirmative vote.

At that point, the Democrats could have invoked the "Constitutional Option" and have challenged the ruling of the chair.  That ruling could be overturned with a simple majority vote, as it was last year when Harry Reid invoked that option (also known as the "nuclear option") to disallow introduction of a series of amendments to a bill about Chinese currency manipulation.  The Hill reported on Oct 6, 2011:

In a shocking development, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules.

Reid and 50 Democrats voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments.

Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.  The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation.

The Democrats use "heavy artillery" on bills of marginal importance but wield a  rubber sword when it comes to campaign finance reform.

Filibuster Reform Fails

by Dan Meek

As I predicted in early January 2011 (see the videos below in this blog), the U.S. Senate refused to reform the filibuster. The crucial decision was that of the Democratic Leadership not to challenge the absurd and unconstitutional "Senate rule" that requires a 2/3 vote of all members in order to change any Senate rule, even at the beginning of a new session.

Knowing that any reform would require 67 votes, Senators then voted on 3 reforms, knowing that all would fail anyway. The reform with the best showing was the Merkley-Udall proposal to require all filibusters to be "talking"--that is, Senators would actually have to hold the floor during the filibuster instead of merely sending a message saying "I filibuster." The current system allows literally thousands of filibusters to be happening at any time, and the Senate refused to change it.

Even the Merkley-Udall bill received only 46 votes, with 4 Democrats voting against it (Baucus, Pryor, Reid, Levin) and 3 not voting (Feinstein, Inouye, Kerry). Even the 46 voting "yes" to this limited reform knew that the vote did not matter, because the Democratic Leadership refused to allow them a majority vote to abrogate the 2/3 vote rule (which would have resulted if the President of the Senate (VP Joe Biden) had ruled in favor of a point of order that the 2/3 vote rule was invalid). The reformer Democrats failed even to offer that point of order.

So the Democrats failed to reform the filibuster. This is consistent with my belief that the filibuster serves them well. It allows them to claim to be progressive on issues and then consistently fail to achieve progressive policies, while blaming "the process." For example, nearly every one of the Democrats in the Senate last December claimed to be against extending the Bush tax cut on incomes over $250,000 per year (and certainly on incomes over $1 million per year). Yet, despite their 59-41 majority in the Senate (including Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman), plus the Presidency and a similar majority in the House of Representatives), they "failed."

At least that is the conventional wisdom: "They tried to stop the tax cuts for the wealthy and super-wealthy, but they failed." The conventional wisdom is wrong. In fact, they did not want to stop the tax cuts and so they extended them. They want progressive voters to believe, however, that they wanted to stop the tax cuts, so they blamed the filibuster (under which they claim to need 60 votes to do anything).

Without the filibuster, the majority Democrats in the Senate would be far more accountable to the voters. With the filibuster, they can continue to advance Republican causes (and thus continue to get big campaign contributions from corporate executives) while blaming "the process" for their predictable "failures" that are not actually failures at all.

Filibuster reform goes bust, by Manu Raju on Politito

Dan Meek Addresses Filibuster Reform on "Populist Dialogs"

This is Part 2 of a 2-part interview. Part 1 is below.

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