Wonkbook: The two flavors of filibuster reform

January 24, 2013

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Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 41. That's the number of votes the minority would have to muster to keep a filibuster going under the stronger version of Reid's filibuster reforms. That would be a reversal of the current situation, where rather than the minority needing to find 41 votes to keep a filibuster going, the majority needs to find 60 to stop it. The result would be that filibusters are much more difficult for the minority, as at least 41 of them have to show up to vote whenever the majority leader decides to schedule the vote -- say, 3 a.m. on a Saturday.


U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks to the press after the weekly Senate Democratic Policy Luncheon Jan. 22 in Washington. 

Wonkblog's Graph of the Day: The world's most polluted cities.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) Fixing the filibuster, or not; 2) what the IMF has to say about economic growth; 3) Pentagon to let women go into combat; 4) House votes to suspend debt ceiling; and 5) where we are on gun control.

1) Top story: Filibuster reform comes in two flavors

A watered-down deal to reform the filibuster is taking shape. "Senate Democratic and Republican leaders are nearing new limits on the filibuster in an effort to speed action in the often-clogged chamber by prohibiting senators from using a common tactic to slow the legislative process. Lawmakers and aides said the new rules, which both sides were preparing to announce on Thursday, would end the use of [filibusters on motions to proceed]." Jeremy W. Peters in The New York Times.

Democrats say they have the votes for something stronger. "Democratic aides tell me that the party is not likely to accept a Reid-McConnell reform deal unless it includes a change that "flips" the filibuster. Instead of the majority requiring 60 votes to block a bill, the minority would need to muster 41 votes to block a bill." David Weigel in Slate.

@dandrezner: The House suspends using the debt ceiling as a bargaining tactic; the Senate engages in filibuster reform. This is not the Congress I know..

Is Mitch McConnell a filibuster reformer's best hope? "The last, best hope for filibuster reformers is that McConnell won’t take Reid’s deal. In that case, Reid is preparing a backup plan that includes both of the items in the Reid-McConnell talks and one more: An innovative reform that changes who bears the burden for cloture votes." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

How the GOP weighs filibuster reform. "What are the incentives for Republicans on Senate reform? Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) has been, quite properly in my view, offering them a choice: work out a bipartisan package of moderate reforms that can be passed with the 67 votes required by Senate rules (or perhaps with 60 but having reform expire at the end of the current Congress), or else Democrats will move forward with a much stronger package of majority-imposed reform." Jonathan Bernstein in The Washington Post.

@ezraklein: Looks like filibuster reform is weakening in the Senate.

The fall of filibuster reform. "Further complicating matters—and potentially rendering the whole exercise onanistic—Reid isn't sure he wants to support his own weak reform at all. He'd rather work out some sort of deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who doesn't sound like he wants any rule change." Timothy Noah in The New Republic.

Filibuster longread: Let's Talk, in the New Yorker.

Music recommendations interlude: Beck, "Go It Alone," 2005.

Top op-eds

KLEIN: What happened when I asked Paul Ryan why he hates taxes. "Throughout the breakfast, Ryan was genial while being utterly inflexible. But think back to what he said at the beginning. Typically, politicians say that their job requires balancing principle with compromise. Ryan’s formulation was principle and prudence. The principles are clear. The prudence, given the recent history of the House Republicans, means knowing when to stop saying no, with the decision to fold on the debt ceiling being a prime example. At one point, Ryan was asked whether Republicans could really stick to this strategy given their low poll numbers and tattered brand. 'So,' he laughed, 'we don’t have much to lose, do we?'” Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

WARNER: The real reason for the demise of the union in America. "Canada’s experience offers another answer. Canada has gone through many of the same economic and social changes as the U.S. since the middle of the 20th century, yet it hasn’t seen the same precipitous decline in unionization. The unionization rate in the U.S. and Canada followed fairly similar paths from 1920 to the mid-1960s, at which point they began to diverge drastically. Differences in labor law and public policy are at the root of this disparity." Kris Warner in Bloomberg.

BOUDREAUX AND PERRY: The myth of stagnant wages. "A favorite 'progressive' trope is that America's middle class has stagnated economically since the 1970s...This trope is spectacularly wrong. It is true enough that, when adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, the average hourly wage of nonsupervisory workers in America has remained about the same. But not just for three decades. The average hourly wage in real dollars has remained largely unchanged from at least 1964—when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) started reporting it." Don Boudreaux and Mark Perry in The Wall Street Journal.

SUNSTEIN: U.S. should act unilaterally on climate change. "Those who make the Sophisticated Objection acknowledge that climate change is a serious problem, and that the world’s nations should be doing something about it. They contend, however, that unilateral action by any country, including the U.S., will impose significant costs without producing significant benefits...It’s a legitimate question, and there are three good answers." Cass Sunstein in Bloomberg.

DIONNE: Obama, the Democratic Reagan. "To understand how Barack Obama sees himself and his presidency, don’t look to Franklin Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln. Obama’s role model is Ronald Reagan — just as Obama told us before he was first elected. Like Reagan, Obama hopes to usher in a long-term electoral realignment — in Obama’s case toward the moderate left, thereby reversing the 40th president’s political legacy." E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post.

BARRO: Did Republicans create a budget monster? "Republicans are excited to force Senate Democrats on the record with a budget plan that will surely show years of red ink to come. But before they celebrate, they should think for a second about how politically ugly this year’s House budget is sure to be." Josh Barro in Bloomberg.

AGGARWALA: End the gas tax. "Any transportation official knows how to deal with a broken-down car blocking rush-hour traffic: Move it to the side of the road and let everyone else get where they’re going...A strong, smart, well-funded federal program would be great. But if Congress can’t pass one now, it should just get itself out of the way, by eliminating the federal gas tax entirely and cutting Washington’s role in surface transportation. It would be a big change, but it would streamline government. And it would probably lead to more investment in infrastructure and greener transportation policies." Rohit T. Aggarwala in Bloomberg.

Time magazine is on it interlude: Somewhat told them steampunk was cool again. Hilarity ensues.

2) What you need to know from the IMF's report

IMF: Pace of economic growth is slowing. "The pace of global economic growth is slowing and the major developed nations continue to pose the major threats as they battle with high debt and below-par growth, the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday in its latest world forecast. The IMF forecasts world growth of 3.5 percent for 2013, slightly less than the organization projected in its previous report in October." Howard Schneider in The Washington Post.

Read: The IMF report.

Explainer: 8 other takeaways from the IMF reportDylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

...But the stock market is doing really well. "One of the biggest trends underlying the strengthening of the U.S. economy has happened so gradually, and with so little discussion, that it was easy to miss. But facts are facts, and while many people didn’t notice it, the U.S. stock market has been on an absolute tear, rising back to near its pre-crisis level." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

Interview: Alan Blinder on the stimulus and TARP.

For unions, austerity bites. "Union membership has declined steadily over the past three decades...The new twist is what drove the decline in 2012, which is really a story about how unions have changed. The big culprit for last year’s drop doesn’t appear to be outsourcing (though union factory employment has fallen since the recession, while non-union employment has risen). The issue was austerity." Jim Tankersley in The Washington Post.

Adorable animals interlude: This dog knows how to use Skype.

3) Pentagon to remove ban on women in combat

Women will soon be able to serve in combat. "Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta plans to announce Thursday a lifting of the ban on female service members in combat roles, a watershed policy change that was informed by women’s valor in Iraq and Afghanistan and that removes the remaining barrier to a fully inclusive military, defense officials said...The Army and the Marines, which make up the bulk of the military’s ground combat force, will present plans to open most jobs to women by May 15." Ernesto Londono in The Washington Post.

Who are the most satisfied military employees? "[A] study of 30,000 active-duty personnel, published in the American Sociological Review, showed that women consistently reported higher job satisfaction in the military than male counterparts of the same ethnicity. This trend held true for African Americans, Hispanics and Whites, and is the exact opposite of what sociologists see in the private sector." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Conspiratorial interlude: Why the moon landing could not have been faked.

4) Debt ceiling, sequester, budget, oh my!

House votes to suspend debt ceiling. "A plan to suspend the federal debt limit cleared a key hurdle in the House on Wednesday, easing the threat of a government default for at least four months...House Republicans voted overwhelmingly for Wednesday’s debt-limit measure. It passed on a vote of 285 to 144, with 33 Republicans voting no." Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman in The Washington Post.

Explainer: Here are all the budget deadlines we face in the coming 3 monthsSuzy Khimm in The Washington Post.

Want to get rid of the debt ceiling forever? Join the club. "[W]e’ve assembled a long list of prominent analysts, economists and government officials who have argued over the years that the debt ceiling should be abolished." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

#nobudgetnopay? Try #nobudgetdelayedpay. "[E]xciting as it is to see Twitter-speak invade the august halls of Congress, #nobudgetnopay is not actually an accurate description of the bill. It’s more #nobudgetdelayedpay...[E]ven if Senate Democrats decided not to pass a budget, they’d still get paid, as it would just take until the last day of Congress." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Debate: What should tax reform do?

The Columbus Fellowship Foundation, a symbol of why budget struggles live on. "Now, Washington is enmeshed in another battle over spending. But the Columbus foundation shows how both parties are struggling to turn their hard-nosed rhetoric about austerity into action. After all, it would be hard to imagine a less painful cut than this one: a program with two full-time employees and bipartisan enemies. And yet, it lives." David A. Fahrenthold in The Washington Post.

Lookback interlude: The most common words in inauguration speeches.

5) Where we stand on gun control

Gun control may split Obama, Reid. "[F]or the first time since Obama became president four years ago, his political interests and Reid’s may be diverging. Not so much because there is huge disagreement on the president’s agenda, but because helping Obama may hurt vulnerable Democrats in the Senate." Paul Kane in The Washington Post.

Poll: Obama has public backing on gun controlKevin Robillard in Politico.

House Dems want to open gunmakers to civil liability suits. "House Democrats on Tuesday proposed legislation that would ease current law to allow people to file civil law suits against gun manufacturers and others in the industry when they act irresponsibly...The Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), would amend the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). According to Schiff, that 2005 law gives gun manufacturers, distributors and gun dealers immunity from most civil negligence and product liability actions." Pete Kasperowicz in The Hill.

Who's that interlude: Bloomberg tracks down the billionaires.

Et Cetera

Murkowski to release 'comprehensive' energy blueprint next weekZack Colman in The Hill.

Do you smoke? You're giving up a decade of life to do soRon Winslow in The Wall Street Journal.

Poll finds broad support for Medicaid expansionSam Baker in The Hill.

How to help Americans finish their college degreesAnnie Lowrey in The New York Times.

The secret to Israel's political dysfunction. Dylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

States are pursuing upgrades to their Medicaid systemsElise Viebeck in The Hill.

How to reduce incarceration and crime rates for African AmericansMark A. R. Kleiman in Washington Monthly.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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