The GOP “pledge” is a ridiculous stunt and means nothing

Do you see anything binding about this "pledge?" I sure don't... (Photo credit: The Associated Press)

Do you see anything binding about this “pledge?” I sure don’t… (Photo credit: The Associated Press)

The headline sounds like a Trump-ism and it probably resembles what Trump will say when he announces his run as an independent around July 2016. Here’s the thing, without a binding agreement, the pledge is nothing more than a great way for the GOP to earn media and for GOP chair Reince Priebus to look like he’s leading the party, but he’s missing a crucial element: Trump’s supporters aren’t necessarily ardent Republicans, they are just conservatives.

Confusing partisanship and ideology is fairly commonplace in American politics and it remains confusing for some studying political behavior at the graduate level. Yes, partisanship and ideology are closely related, with most liberals identifying as Democrats and most conservatives identifying as Republicans, but one’s ideology doesn’t mean they are “party people.” Yes, they may tell a pollster they are a “Republican,” but that may have more to do with their ideology lining up with one particular party than the strength of their partisanship. (Essentially, the Republicans better represent a conservative ideology, therefore a conservative identifies as a Republican.) Trump attract ideologues on the right. Conservatives who fully agree that we need to kick out the “illegals” and build a gigantic wall along both the Mexican AND Canadian borders don’t necessarily rock elephant lapel pins and pendants, but they do support the tea party and other movements associated with the Republican party, but more explicitly tied to the conservative ideology.

This is an important point for Priebus and other Republican bigwigs worried about the Trump-effect. Trump can sign the loyalty pledge now, in early-September 2015 when the stakes are high for both Trump and the Republican Party, but if Trump’s support among Republican party elites starts to wane, but his support among those identifying as very conservative remains high, the likelihood Trump bucks the pledge and runs as an independent strengthens.

Continue reading

The Noise Machine: How Democrats can buck historical trends and win in 2016

The only adults in the room. Will that lead one of them to victory next November?

The only adults in the room. Will that lead one of them to victory next November?

Last week, the Republican circus moved from Cleveland, to Atlanta, with no signs of slowing down. Early poll numbers suggest Donald Trump wasn’t permanently damaged by his erratic–and predictable–behavior at the debate, while Jeb! Bush and Scott Walker’s poll numbers sank. Of course, all of this is subject to change, just like a weather forecast. Meanwhile, the juxtaposition of the Democrats and the Republicans grew wider. As Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders continues to draw record crowds, demonstrating the frustration among Americans on the left, Hillary Clinton unveiled plans for “debt-free college,” among other major policy changes for the millions suffering under the burden of student loans.

Whether Clinton’s plans for student loans are a silver bullet remains to be seen–not including full out debt relief may stoke the ire of many progressives–but it is refreshing to see the adults in the room actually discuss policies that matter. While Republicans debated how best to repeal the Obama years, what their faith means to them, and how best to outflank one another from the right, few provided details into the issues that are truly defining the United States today. In fact, by the time the RedState Gathering started in Atlanta, many Republicans and pundits were focused on Donald Trump’s crass comments toward FOX News host Megyn Kelly, not policy, nor what it takes to govern.

While policy and governing may come off as boring, it may be Democrats’ ticket to a third consecutive term.

Continue reading

Harry Reid did what? A little filibuster reform

In light of today’s vote in the Senate, I am reposting a piece published on April 30 (and no, it is not about gun control, but filibuster reform). Today’s action taken in the Senate applies only to the President’s nominees to fill executive posts and judicial vacancies, excluding nominees to the Supreme Court. It is a small, but significant step in the right direction.

April 30, 2013 by

Gun Control Background Check Legislation Defeated…Blame the Filibuster

On Wednesday, April 17, the Senate voted down gun background check legislation. This was defeated with 54 ayes and 46 nays. What? Defeated with a majority? You bet, thanks to the filibuster, which requires a 60-vote supermajority before legislation can move forward.

Slate.com’s Dave Weigel put the blame directly on the Democrats’ shoulders for a variety of reasons.  He makes a good case, but the filibuster remains the major culprit. Even if the Democrats who voted no had voted yes, they would’ve still been one vote shy of the 60-vote threshold.

The filibuster has been a handy little procedure for senators of both parties to use when in the minority. However, the GOP senators have escalated its use to a whole new level of obstruction. Here is a little history:

  • 107th Congress (2001 – 2002, Dem minority)— 71 cloture motions filed:
  • 108th Congress (2003 – 2004, Dem minority)—62
  • 109th Congress (2005 – 2006, Dem minority)—68
  • 110th Congress (2007 – 2008, GOP minority)—139
  • 111th Congress (2009 – 2010, GOP minority)—137
  • 112th Congress (2011 – 2012, GOP minority)—115
  • 113th Congress (2013 – 2014, GOP minority)—11

A filibuster is an attempt to extend debate on a proposal in order to delay or completely prevent a vote on its passage. If cloture (a 60-vote supermajority) is not attained, the legislation will not receive an up or down vote. Historically, the filibuster was used in limited circumstances such as to override a presidential veto, expel a member from the Senate, or convict a federal officer of a federal offense.

Furthermore, the filibuster was a talking one. Jimmy Stewart’s character filibustered, quite dramatically, in the 1939 film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In March, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) held a talking filibuster, which hadn’t happened since Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took to the floor in December 2010 to protest a tax law. Today, talking filibusters are rare.

If legislation is going to be held up, then the senator(s) doing the blocking should stand before their colleagues and the American public to argue their point rather than merely stating their intent to filibuster. No pain is associated with obstruction nowadays; it is far too easy.

The Brennan Center for Justice’s 2010 Filibuster Abuse report provides a thorough accounting of how this procedure contributes to Senate dysfunction, compromises the system of checks and balances, and degrades transparency and accountability in government. The report highlights the fact that “Senate procedures have increasingly been used to prevent decision-making rather than to promote deliberation and debate.”

cloture_size

In 2012, the Brennan Center for Justice released a follow-up report, Curbing Filibuster Abuse. The authors found as of October 2012:

  • The 112th Congress had enacted 196 public laws, the lowest output of any Congress since at least World War II;
  • Senate passed a record-low 2.8 percent of bills in that chamber;
  • Cloture motions have skyrocketed since 2006;
  • On average, it took 188 days to confirm a judicial nominee, creating 33 “judicial emergencies.”

The authors state that rules reform is a must and suggest some “minimal, commonsense reforms:”

  • There should be only one opportunity to filibuster any given measure or nomination;
  • Senate rules should require at least 40 votes to sustain a filibuster as opposed to requiring a supermajority to break a filibuster, and senators should be required to remain on the floor and debate, as in the past;
  • Safeguards should be put in place to ensure members of the minority can offer amendments.

There have been attempts to reform, if not eliminate, the filibuster, even as recently as January. Reform is difficult. One reason is that the filibuster allows the minority in the Senate to have some say over and to slow down legislation. Therefore, even though Democrats have had a majority in that chamber, seven years now, many of them don’t want to change or eliminate it because they fear finding themselves in the minority again and when that happens, will want the option to filibuster.

The filibuster serves a purpose, and should be maintained on a limited basis, used for very specific circumstances as enumerated previously. However, filibustering has become a means for the minority to override or disrupt any legislation the majority tries to pass and hold up political appointments. This is wrong. Elections matter and when the minority dictates what the majority does, that is a problem for our democracy, especially when those filibustering have no desire to compromise and negotiate. It’s their way or no way. They become obstructionists and policymaking in this country grinds to a halt. Any legislation or political appointment, no matter how benign, is nearly impossible to enact or approve.

The filibuster’s accomplice is often the secret hold. The 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government Act should’ve halted the secrecy component of holds. However, since no enforcement mechanism was included, it has largely been ignored. There is no reason a legislator should not be held to account for why she/he is holding up legislation. Transparency is crucial to democracy. If a senator is going to stop a bill or political appointment, we the people have every right to know who it is and why they are doing it, whether we agree with them or not.

Capitol 2

Until our legislators have the guts to make some simple changes to Senate rules, government impotence at the federal level will continue. That does not bode well for the health, security, and growth of our country. Filibuster reform is a must.

Read the Brennan Center for Justice reports:

Gun Control Background Check Legislation Defeated…Blame the Filibuster

On Wednesday, April 17, the Senate voted down gun background check legislation. This was defeated with 54 ayes and 46 nays. What? Defeated with a majority? You bet, thanks to the filibuster, which requires a 60-vote supermajority before legislation can move forward.

Slate.com’s Dave Weigel put the blame directly on the Democrats’ shoulders for a variety of reasons.  He makes a good case, but the filibuster remains the major culprit. Even if the Democrats who voted no had voted yes, they would’ve still been one vote shy of the 60-vote threshold.

The filibuster has been a handy little procedure for senators of both parties to use when in the minority. However, the GOP senators have escalated its use to a whole new level of obstruction. Here is a little history:

  • 107th Congress (2001 – 2002, Dem minority)— 71 cloture motions filed:
  • 108th Congress (2003 – 2004, Dem minority)—62
  • 109th Congress (2005 – 2006, Dem minority)—68
  • 110th Congress (2007 – 2008, GOP minority)—139
  • 111th Congress (2009 – 2010, GOP minority)—137
  • 112th Congress (2011 – 2012, GOP minority)—115
  • 113th Congress (2013 – 2014, GOP minority)—11

A filibuster is an attempt to extend debate on a proposal in order to delay or completely prevent a vote on its passage. If cloture (a 60-vote supermajority) is not attained, the legislation will not receive an up or down vote. Historically, the filibuster was used in limited circumstances such as to override a presidential veto, expel a member from the Senate, or convict a federal officer of a federal offense.

Furthermore, the filibuster was a talking one. Jimmy Stewart’s character filibustered, quite dramatically, in the 1939 film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In March, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) held a talking filibuster, which hadn’t happened since Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took to the floor in December 2010 to protest a tax law. Today, talking filibusters are rare.

If legislation is going to be held up, then the senator(s) doing the blocking should stand before their colleagues and the American public to argue their point rather than merely stating their intent to filibuster. No pain is associated with obstruction nowadays; it is far too easy.

The Brennan Center for Justice’s 2010 Filibuster Abuse report provides a thorough accounting of how this procedure contributes to Senate dysfunction, compromises the system of checks and balances, and degrades transparency and accountability in government. The report highlights the fact that “Senate procedures have increasingly been used to prevent decision-making rather than to promote deliberation and debate.”

cloture_size

In 2012, the Brennan Center for Justice released a follow-up report, Curbing Filibuster Abuse. The authors found as of October 2012:

  • The 112th Congress had enacted 196 public laws, the lowest output of any Congress since at least World War II;
  • Senate passed a record-low 2.8 percent of bills in that chamber;
  • Cloture motions have skyrocketed since 2006;
  • On average, it took 188 days to confirm a judicial nominee, creating 33 “judicial emergencies.”

The authors state that rules reform is a must and suggest some “minimal, commonsense reforms:”

  • There should be only one opportunity to filibuster any given measure or nomination;
  • Senate rules should require at least 40 votes to sustain a filibuster as opposed to requiring a supermajority to break a filibuster, and senators should be required to remain on the floor and debate, as in the past;
  • Safeguards should be put in place to ensure members of the minority can offer amendments.

There have been attempts to reform, if not eliminate, the filibuster, even as recently as January. Reform is difficult. One reason is that the filibuster allows the minority in the Senate to have some say over and to slow down legislation. Therefore, even though Democrats have had a majority in that chamber, seven years now, many of them don’t want to change or eliminate it because they fear finding themselves in the minority again and when that happens, will want the option to filibuster.

The filibuster serves a purpose, and should be maintained on a limited basis, used for very specific circumstances as enumerated previously. However, filibustering has become a means for the minority to override or disrupt any legislation the majority tries to pass and hold up political appointments. This is wrong. Elections matter and when the minority dictates what the majority does, that is a problem for our democracy, especially when those filibustering have no desire to compromise and negotiate. It’s their way or no way. They become obstructionists and policymaking in this country grinds to a halt. Any legislation or political appointment, no matter how benign, is nearly impossible to enact or approve.

The filibuster’s accomplice is often the secret hold. The 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government Act should’ve halted the secrecy component of holds. However, since no enforcement mechanism was included, it has largely been ignored. There is no reason a legislator should not be held to account for why she/he is holding up legislation. Transparency is crucial to democracy. If a senator is going to stop a bill or political appointment, we the people have every right to know who it is and why they are doing it, whether we agree with them or not.

Capitol 2

Until our legislators have the guts to make some simple changes to Senate rules, government impotence at the federal level will continue. That does not bode well for the health, security, and growth of our country. Filibuster reform is a must.

Cross-posted at The Feisty Liberal

 

Read the Brennan Center for Justice reports: