WASHINGTON -- President Obama's commitment to reforming the rules of the filibuster will endure even if Republicans end up taking control of Congress, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Thursday.
During his sit-down with "The Daily Show", Obama stated that one of the institutional aspects of the political process that would "have to be fixed" is "the way the filibuster operates." Asked to expand on the sentiment during the daily briefing, Gibbs offered no specifics as to White House's preference or strategy for rules changes. He did, however, offer that the administration was committed to filibuster reform regardless of which party was in power.
"You [would] have to come to the conclusion that the rules of the Senate are more important than getting something done for the United States of America [to think otherwise]," said Gibbs. "I think the president was pretty clear yesterday. If all you have to do is muster 40 people to say no, how do you foster an atmosphere in which [consensus is reached]."
Diminishing or restricting the use of the filibuster (as it is currently conceived) would be a potentially major concession on behalf of the Democratic Party should they lose control of the Senate. The president could conceivably apply his filibuster to the legislative output of a Republican-led Congress. But the application of cloture rules would prevent some of those dramatic legislative/executive branch showdowns.
The prospect of being thrust back into the minority has given some of the more progressive filibuster reform advocates a bit of pause, as they reflect on their ability to slow down President George W. Bush's agenda during the middle years of his administration.
But a good chunk of reform advocates have also taken the long-road approach -- recognizing that the founders never conceived of the legislative process being led by a minority of 40, and arguing the proficiency of government depends on institutional changes. The White House has been more philosophical than specific with its preferences. But Gibbs' comments on Thursday are a firm indication that the president falls into the latter camp.
"It's called governing, right?" he asked rhetorically. "It is not always just a sport. It is not always just about who's up and who's down and who wins. That's the crazy viewpoint in this administration. I think it sort of drove most people to come here: whether the rules and the atmosphere of this place has largely corrupted some into believing that this is all about stopping you from doing this and me for doing that. Tell me... how we make progress on any single issue if this is the case?"