It’s hard to tell how much of the push against “silent” filibusters is just rhetoric, as opposed to real — but misplaced — concerns about how filibusters are carried out and how they are portrayed in the media.
But given that reformers continue to claim that, as a Sierra Club release put it, the problem is “transparency and accountability,” it’s worth pointing out one more time:
The problem with the Senate is the 60-vote Senate. It isn’t transparency. It isn’t accountability. It isn’t how filibusters are conducted; it’s that they are conducted, in effect, at every possible opportunity, so that 60 votes are needed to do anything.
Again, it’s not clear to me how seriously these reformers take their own rhetoric. They may simply believe that everyone wants Jimmy Stewart-style filibusters, and that the best way to get attention and sympathy for their cause is to talk a lot about Jimmy Stewart filibusters. They might even be correct about that. But unfortunately their solution — the “talking filibuster” provision of the Merkley/Udall reform package — appears to be a solution to transparency, rather than to the 60-vote problem.
As far as I can tell, the reformers simply believe that, if only filibusters were fully exposed for the obstruction they are, the minority would be forced to retreat. Alas, that’s not how things are likely to actually work out.
Other provisions of the package (such as allowing passed bills to get to conference) are more helpful — and it’s still possible for some compromise measure to make some progress on the real problem. That’s far more likely, however, if reformers keep the real problem clearly in sight. 60 votes, folks. 60 votes, on everything. Not transparency. Not accountability. Supermajority voting. If you want to change the Senate, that’s what has to be changed.