THE BLOG
05/01/2013 12:32 pm ET | Updated Jul 01, 2013

How to End the Filibuster. Tomorrow.

AP

Quo usque tandem abutere, Catalina, patientia nostra? (How long, Catiline, will you abuse our patience.) -- Cicero

Donating to Democrats enables the filibuster.

Ending the filibuster is easy. Democratic donors need only withhold any further contribution from the DNC, the DSCC and the DCCC, until the filibuster is ended or substantially revised. Or, to use current jargon, let us "sequester" our contributions. That includes unions, PACs, SuperPACs, as well as individuals.

Senate Democrats will cry 'uncle' faster than you can say Ted Cruz.

Although well-understood as a key element in D.C.-dysfunction, it is not so widely appreciated just how destructive the filibuster, as abused by the Republicans, has been.

The filibuster brought the Tea Party to power in 2010. Stringing out the health care reform process for month-after-month-after-month enabled fanatical ("keep government out of my Medicare") opposition to be fomented. It was that anger that became the wave election of 2010. Many bills passed by the House (e.g., the Republicans' former love, cap-and-trade) died in the Senate, exposing House members who had taken difficult votes to the twin critiques of a controversial vote AND achieving nothing by it. Other bills, such as financial reform, were so watered down as to be less than effective.

Moreover, the president was not even provided his nominees to key government agencies to help carry out his agenda. On the flimsiest of phony excuses, Republicans blocked nominees time and time again. There was no deference provided to the previously accepted norm that a President generally gets whom he wants to run the various pieces of the executive branch.

This is what I wrote about the filibuster in November, 2010:

Most tragically, it cost millions of Americans their jobs and, along with them, their dignity. It cost a generation of young adults the work experience they will need to develop their careers. It cost a generation of children the world-class education they will need to compete in this world. It cost everyone an even more affordable health care system and greater security that Wall Street cannot include you in their risk-taking without your prior consent.

In 2012 the President won re-election by 5 million votes (and 62 percent of the electoral vote), Democrats increased their seats in the Senate and the House.

Yet, the filibuster enables the Tea Party to control the agenda. From the president's nominees, to gun safety, and from sequester to budgets, the Tea Party minority has a stranglehold on Congress and, thus, the nation. Most of their time is spent creating schemes to screw the American people, the latest being the hold the debt-ceiling hostage to a bill to "reform" taxes in their way -- more tax cuts for the wealthy.

Yes, I know, even if something passes the Senate, the problem of the Republican House remains. But, a defined bill, passed by the Senate, can bring enormous pressure on the remaining cohort of rational Republicans, and certainly on the Speaker, to "let the House work its will."

My understanding (that may be wrong) was that there was a cohort of six, mostly older Democratic Senators, who did not favor changing the filibuster.

One must assume that these Senators were concerned about a future Senate in which Republicans rule without a filibuster. And, yes, some very bad things would happen -- in 2002/3, the House twice passed a bill making embryonic research illegal, and arresting at the border anyone who left the country to receive embryonic stem cell therapy. A non-filibuster blocked Republican Senate would have passed it, and the man Justice Sandra Day O'Connor regrets helping to become president would have signed it.

But, there is nothing more likely to bring the Republicans to power in the first place than the filibuster as it currently exists. It happened before (see above) and it is happening again. Moreover, President Obama is in office for another four years (minus 100 days), and, health-allowing, the next president will be Hillary Clinton. That is a good 12 years before totally draconian laws can get through.

Consider what ending the filibuster can do. Judicial nominees can be confirmed, and the bench would get some balance after eight years of the Bush appointees. Instead of looking for people who are good and can "get through a Republican filibuster," the president can look for people solely on the basis of merit: a new head of the FCC, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Board, a Fed Chairman (Bernanke or Janet Yellen), members of the National Labor Relations Board, and others can not only be confirmed, but actually get to work, and do things for the American people.

Gun background checks will pass. And, the weight of public opinion will be mobilized against the House opponents.

Moreover, it will increase the chances of holding onto the Senate and re-taking the House for the president's last two years. Democrats could point to all the bills passed by the Senate that specific House members blocked. The American Jobs Act that the president has proposed for two years, designed to create 1.9 million new jobs, could be passed and waved in the faces of the Republican House, both now and for the '14 election.

Now is the time to do it. Although Republicans will grouse, grumble and threaten, it is important to recall that they do not cooperate on anything that they do not consider to be in their own self-interest, and against the president's, anyhow. What, pray tell, is passing? Background checks supported by ~90 percent of the American people went down in a blaze of Tea Party smoke. The only reason immigration reform has a chance is that Republicans are eyeing the electoral math.

Although I have problems with the Merkley-Udall-Harkin approach -- resurrecting the talking filibuster as the sole means to obstruct -- as insufficient (why not force 41 votes to continue, rather than 60 votes to end?), if that were the fix, I would take it, and, if it worked, let it be. If more were required to prevent permanent obstruction, then we can address that in the future.

Instead of complaining about the filibuster, do something about it. We are not powerless. Stop funding the only party who can end it, but have chosen inaction.

The president reminds us periodically that, if we want change, we have to do it.

Stop enabling the enablers.

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