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August 16, 2009


Without the public option there is no meaningful reform that will actually make any kind of a significant difference.

Your last sentence makes no sense. If there is a deal with the Blue Dogs to drop the "public option" for their support, then reinstaing it during reconciliation would rightly be seen as reneging on the deal. You would split the party anfd Reid/Pelosi would never be trusted again.

It's not gonna happen.

He said nothing I can see about reinstating the public option thru reconciliation

Ack. Stupid. Last line, indeed...

Well, since serious Dems apparently are negotiating in good faith, while the GOP and their Baucus-gang enablers are either "negotiating" in bad faith or not at all, WHO GIVES A RAT'S @SS WHETHER "REID AND PELOSI WOULD NEVER BE TRUSTED AGAIN??" GET THE F***ING BILL PASSED!!!


Sorry. But as a poster yesterday at TPM said: I am so TIRED of this s**t!!

Generally, we think our side is negotiating in good faith and the other side are perfidious back-stabbers. That's just human nature. The other side sees things the opposite way. Publius was explicitly calling for negotiating in bad faith.

publius, passing the public option through reconciliation is an impossible pipe dream.

John Miller:

Without the public option there is no meaningful reform that will actually make any kind of a significant difference.
Sheer nonsense.

Well, that's that for any kind of useful health care reform, if it's true. The Republicans, in their 40 member minority, after massive losses in the last election, managed to set the entire tone of the debate, and the Democrats let them do it, or helped them.

And so if this is true, Obama's just given the Republicans a HUGE political victory, conceded and lost most of the political capital he had, and for nothing. That's bipartisanship David Broder can believe in!

The Democrats as a whole want public option or single payer. Many who support the first admit the second is the best policy but are willing to compromise for assumed political necessity. Obama at times sounds like he too might be in this corner.

A small minority of Dems do not. Another minority don't really care (toned down for vulgarity restrictions) so will go with the flow. Republicans can't really be taken seriously. More now than ever. In fact, the opposition looks simply crazy. So crazy, even the MSM is showing signs of thinking so.

But, we read that Obama is now thinking about compromising to please them. It will hurt the feelings of the "liberals" but (aren't we all adults!) it seems necessary for reform. He comes off looking like a weenie. But, hey, I'm such a "liberal" thinking so.

No sale. Publius now wants to make lemons from lemonade. If we do this -- which many sane sorts think is a horrible path PLUS says "screw you" to a majority of the public (by polls) and members of the party itself -- we must get something from Blue Dogs. What exactly? Their wholehearted support for screwing everyone else?

The public option was a compromise. Okay? Oh wait ... maybe we will have it anyway ... during reconciliation. So what exactly is the point of this post then?

Is it defeatist or cynical? Yuck.

Pith - i disagree 100%. The agreement is to drop the bill to get comprehensive reform. That's the deal -- and the risk is that future sessions can have far less Dems.

Whatever additional incremental steps and improvements are wholly distinct matters. For instance, would filling the "donut hole" in Medicare prescription drug be "bad faith" b/c that deal made the law possible years ago.

You may be ideologically opposed, but that doesn't make it bad faith

I'm sorry, but the liberal blogosphere saw the direction this debate was going to before Obama was even sworn in. Maybe there are forces in the background that Obama has to deal with that we don't know about, but the only people who seem to be continuously surprised at this failure is the Obama administration, despite the fact that the blogs that got him successfully have been screaming about this for months.

How many more times do the Democrats have to fail at something before turning to the people who have been right all along?

This has nothing to do with ideology. My preference is for universal catastrophic coverage, means-tested help for the poor, tax exempt HSAs to minimize the inequities in the tax deductibility of employer benefits and nothing else.

However, if you were willing to support a Bismarckian regime of universal coverage with regulated private competition, you would be right to think the "public option" is a Trojan Horse to wreck that system and replace it with single payer. So put yourself in the shoes of someone who wants a Bismarckian system. If the Democratic leadership but their support by sinking the public option (as you advocate), it would be a double cross to sneak it back in later. You'd wreck your own coalition.

"How many more times do the Democrats have to fail at something before turning to the people who have been right all along?"

Isn't the issue for Obama, counting votes in the Senate? If 60 votes aren't there, or 50 votes plus 10 who will defeat a filibuster, Obama can't win.

Maybe I don't understand what "turning to the people who have been right all along" is going to accomplish.

My other objection to your series of posts on this subject is that it fails to come to terms with the real political dynamics. You are losing support (and therefore the ability to issue ultimatums to the blue dogs) because the currently-old realize that what's being proposed is paying for universal coverage with unspecified cuts to Medicare. I'm not at all sympathetic to their resistance, but you're fooling yourself if you think the problem is a few insurance companies and the media.

Again, you may agree or disagree with a public option on the merits. You and I disagree on those merits -- and I disagree with your vision of government role in health care, and you disagree with mine. That's not hugely surprising given our respective track records. and hey, that's why we come here - to debate this stuff.

But putting it up for a vote later is not double-crossing, or any sort of nefarious plot. It's an incremental improvement. I mean, under this logic, any addition to a comprehensive bill is double-crossing. certainly earlier SESSIONS of congress cant bind future sessions on such informal, backroom "deals".

That's what I was thinking -- future sessions. i don't mean turn around a do it a minute later

Get ready for it, indivdual mandate in exchange for a tax credit (oh how they love those) and no public option. And of couse the co-op fig leaf. And the insurance companies jump for joy because the gov't just required everyone to buy their crap

Sorry, publius, if I misunderstood. Certainly, no deal lasts forever and there would be nothing wrong with a future, more liberal, Congress adding a public option. I thought you were talking about the reconciliation process for these bills or this year's budget.

Pithlord, an understandable mistake since he used a term which would apply to now, not future Congresses.

@ Pithlord -
Generally, we think our side is negotiating in good faith and the other side are perfidious back-stabbers. That's just human nature.
Since your post followed my rant, I assume there's a direct connection.
And while your good faith/bad faith argument may have merit in a general way when speaking of rational actors, it doesn't apply here.
- Because no matter what bill emerges, no repub (xcept maybe the Maine ladies) is going to vote for it. Remember the stimulus bill?
- Because its clear from his public statements (e.g. Death Panels) that Grassley, considered the "reasonable" repub, is not going to support any plan.
- Because no repub has offered any alternative or compromise at all. None.

These are clear examples of acting in bad faith. So, f*** 'em.

i could have been more clear (as usual). I don't think the Dems are going to lose majority, but they'll certainly return back to below 60 relatively soon.

so unless the midterms go well, i think this is the only shot to get it in with 60 votes.

john - what term did you mean. "reconciliation"? again, i could have been more clear more sure, but that happens in all budgets

http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=48709>"Because no repub has offered any alternative or compromise at all. None."

I think if we drop the terms "health", "care" and "reform", we may find bipartisan support.

Add the terms " bomb" "the" "shit " outta" "foreigners", and we might even get unAmerican scum support.

This is a travesty.

The republicans won on healthcare by framing; "death panels" and "government takeover" resonate with America. The soundbite culture/media machine beat reasonable policy, because chants of "DON'T KILL GRAMMA" is easier to get across than a 1000 page compromised, re-worked, complicated bill. You've gotta hand it to the republicans, though--they sure can play politics better than the dems. You betcha!

But this is about more than politics, this is the health of our nation. And Obama just announced that he's sold out 47 million (and counting) uninsured Americans to the Health Care Industry. The Industry owns the Democrats, who give lip service to working for the common man. But when push comes to shove, they know who signs their paychecks (moreso than you or I).

It just got a lot harder to justify my vote last November. And it's going to lose the democrats a lot of seats in Congress. They just sold out the American people. At least the republicans don't act like they're not screwing us... maybe that's what 'Merica likes about them.

The Public OptionTM was the compromise (before compromise was required). Never should have started by taking single-payer off from the get-go.

Hope is over, and Change isn't coming.


Republicans havent won anything and Obama has not sold anyone out. As pointed out by Ezra Klein(in the link included by Gherald L above), the "public option" has never before been considered essential to health insurance reform, the whole point of which has been to make universal health insurance available to every American through subsidies and necessary regulations such as eliminating exceptions for pre-existing conditions and cancellation when you actually have to use your insurance and the provision of health insurance exchanges. There is every evidence that the votes are now there for passing this health insurance reform-a historic achievement. Obama has always been quite clear that he viewed the "public option" as a means, not an end, and largely as a means for cutting costs. However, no public plan that would work in a way to meaningfully cut costs, or that would actually cover any large number of people, can be passed in the Senate at the present time as part of comprehensive reform, and that is a simple political reality. If it proves necessary for cost cutting down the road, a public option can be passed as part of budget reconciliation, and in a way that would actually make it effective.

Ian Welsh

A regressive tax which rises faster than pay rises.

This is forced increased spending on domestic financial services, which is what insurance is. I guess that’s Obama’s economic plan as well as his health care plan. And bonus, since there’ll be no denials and no recessions, you won’t be able to get out of it in any fashion, except death.

Death and taxes, the first gets you out of the second. And a health care mandate without effective cost controls is an ever growing tax till you die.

What's it gonna take to admit we have a President from Goldman-Sachs?

the currently-old realize that what's being proposed is paying for universal coverage with unspecified cuts to Medicare.

The word 'realize' is misused here, Pith. You are talking about what they fear, not what they 'realize'. There are specified proposed cuts to Medicare - the pointless 'Medicare Advantage' program chiefly, which is about $100 billion per year. Yes, Medicare has to cost less, as does health care in general. That's true in any case, reform or no. I'm glad you aren't sympathetic to their 'argument', but you can't 'realize' something which isn't self-evidently true.

I think the dropping of the public option is a big deal, but it's MUCH better to have the rest of the bill pass without it rather than nothing. And agree with pub that they should GET SOMETHING for dropping it, or else not drop it.

I think Obama has been on the weak side during this fight - I could've told you a year ago that no Republicans would vote for the final bill, no matter what was in it. Common sense would've told you that. But Obama has to deal with congress as it is, and that is a very very difficult row to hoe. I hope he appreciates, at long last, the folly of his 'post-partisan' conceit, and really changes his MO after this. He needs to use that bully pulpit more aggressively. There are still pressure points, and they must all be used or threatened. Congress must change. The Dem. Party must change. Remember the 'nuclear option'? Time for more of that sort of thing - it's time, for instance, to change the filibuster rules again. It was 66 votes; it's 60 now; how about 55? It's time to change the way committee chairs are awarded (ie not via seniority). It's time to use fiery rhetoric in the next election (which needn't be lies, by the way). I mean FDR-type fiery rhetoric. What's wrong with that?

I know that some people (like Pithlord, certainly) recoil reflexively from any whiff of populism, but I don't think something along those lines is entirely optional at this point. Pressure builds and it is going to get expressed somehow. You either let it spurt in an inchoate, arbitrary way - like with our teabaggers, et. al. - or you give voice to legitimate fears and frustrations, and grapple with the causes thereof. And, yes, identifying culprits. Political leadership isn't only about legislation.

Generally, we think our side is negotiating in good faith and the other side are perfidious back-stabbers. That's just human nature.

I don't want to pile-on Pithlord here, but tut tutting us with a tiresome logical fallacy rather than an argument is human nature, too, unfortunately. A general statement can be true in a general sense without being true in a specific situation. I would say that negotiating changes to a bill you don't intend to support no matter what, is 'negotiating in bad faith'. It may be the way the game is played these days, but it's still bad faith.

The MSM spin that anything has changed recently on this is nonsense. The Obama administration has always expressed support for a public option while never demanding it. Kent Conrad and other Dems in the back pocket of the insurance industry have always been against it. The fight continues. It's really a matter of who blinks first. At this point, the action mainly consists of people like Conrad accusing the other side of blinking.

Unlike you, publius, a lot of us think that the public option is non-negotiable. I've already spent a fair bit of time calling Congresspeople in the Progressive Caucus and urging them to pledge not to vote for a bill that doesn't contain a public option. I plan to continue to do so.

As for using the Senate reconciliation, I respectfully disagree with Ezra Klein about its being impossible. For months, Klein was selling the (false) view that the Senate Parliamentarian would actually rule on a Byrd Rule point of order. Now he's amended that opinion and instead argues that: a) the Senate Parliamentarian, whose role he at least tacitly admits is advisory (it is) has never before been overruled by the presiding officer of the Senate; and that b) doing so would be a bad idea because "The problem with breaking the rules -- or, more to the point, using them in unintended ways -- is that anyone can do it."

A few notes on this argument: first, Ezra Klein's track record on the role of the Senate Parliamentarian is not very good. I'd like at least a citation to something indicating that the advice of the Parliamentarian (a position created in the mid-1930s) has never been ignored by the Senate's presiding officer.

But, second, let's just assume for the sake of argument that Ezra is correct. That this would be the first time in nearly three quarters of a century that the Senate Parliamentarian's advice has been rejected. What's the real cost of this? Presumably that anyone could break the filibuster rule at will. As an opponent of the filibuster, I think that would be superb. If in fact ignoring the Senate Parliamentarian's advice would make the Senate filibuster rule null and void (and I'm not at all convinced that it would), that's a feature, not a bug.

Third, this is exactly what the Republicans proposed doing with the nuclear option. This is important to note both because there was much less handwringing over the Parliamentarian in those discussions (I cannot remember any, in fact). And because the Republicans are already on record saying they'll ignore Senate rules when they like. So even if the filibuster was ever helpful for Democrats (and it hasn't been since they used it to block civil rights legislation over four decades ago), it cannot be helpful in the future. What seems like a nightmare fantasy to Ezra Klein is already the case.

Fourth, it's worth noting that Klein doesn't think that the public option is that important. From his perspective, folks insisting on the public option are one of the main obstacles to the kind of "health insurance reform" that he wants. So of course he's going to say what he can to discourage what he sees as unnecessary roadblocks to his idea of reform.

Finally, it's clear that there are at least three distinct Democratic positions on the public option: some Democrats are against it, some Democrats favor it but do not think it's vitally important (and how important members of this group think it is also varies), and some think it's essential. Although the Republicans will certainly deserve a lot of credit for riling up the public and muddying the waters, if we don't get real healthcare reform (which would mean either no bill or a health-insurance-industry bailout bill posing as reform), that result will principally reflect the internal incoherence of the Democratic Party.

Ben - i appreciate the thorough comment, and I'm definitely with you in principle. One reason I'm not ultimately read to draw the line at public option though is that it's sort of being rigged.

The way it's structured right now (being limited to the relatively higher-cost population) could make it not work very well. I think Paul Starr had a Prospect article on this a while back.

Obviously, I'm still willing to take that risk and would like to see it in the exchanges. But that fear sort of plays into my calculus.

The better option would be to open up the public option to anyone in country,b ut that's not politically possible at the moment

The better option would be to open up the public option to anyone in country, but that's not politically possible at the moment

I think this comment needs to be unpacked a little. In what sense is this "not politically possible"? I'd agree it's deeply politically unlikely. But frankly so is everything else at this point.

The Progressive Caucus poses a real potential barrier to passing a bill without a public option. I do worry that a basically phony public option--the most likely public option at this point, I'd agree--will provide them the cover to vote for something that they should oppose.

However, given your view of the relative significance of any "politically possible" public option, I wonder why you think the Democrats should be getting something in return for dropping it from the bill. One doesn't get something for nothing. And if the only politically possible public option is basically meaningless, the Democrats can't expect anything much in return for dropping it.

Again, my position is that any bill without a public option immediately available to all Americans is not meaningful reform and deserves to be opposed by progressives.

"it's time, for instance, to change the filibuster rules again. It was 66 votes; it's 60 now; how about 55?"

I prefer leaving it at 60, but limiting it only to judicial appointments, which are lifetime, and thus deserve a higher bar.

But eliminate the filibuster for anything else.

I'm open to the idea of some form of more limited compromise, but the current abuse that makes having to get cloture the norm is ahistoric and an abuse.

"I mean FDR-type fiery rhetoric. What's wrong with that?"

Harry Truman: “I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell.”

Side note: for other huge history geeks like myself, there's a wonderful, long oral history interview available online that Donald Ritchie, Associate Historian of the Senate and dean of U.S. oral historians (not to be confused with Donald Richie, American ex-pat and dean of Japanese film scholars) did with Floyd M. Riddick, who was Senate Parliamentarian from 1964-74.

That's Donald Richie stepping up because Richard A. Baker has retired after 34 years as Senate historian.

Throw The Healthcare Obstructionist Out!

More than two thirds of the American people want a single payer health care system. And if they cant have a single payer system 76% of all Americans want a strong government-run public option on day one (85% of democrats, 71% of independents, and 60% republicans). Basically everyone.

We have the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed world. And the most costly. Costing over twice as much as every other county. Conservative estimates are that over 120,000 of you dies each year in America from treatable illness that people in other developed countries don't die from. Rich, middle class, and poor a like. Insured and uninsured. Men, women, children, and babies. This is what being 37th in quality of healthcare means.

I know that many of you are angry and frustrated that REPUBLICANS! In congress are dragging their feet and trying to block TRUE healthcare reform. What republicans want is just a taxpayer bailout of the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry, and the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare industry. A trillion dollar taxpayer funded private health insurance bailout is all you really get, without a robust government-run public option available on day one. Co-OP's ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR A GOVERNMENT-RUN PUBLIC OPTION. They are a fraud being pushed by the GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry that is KILLING YOU!


These industries have been slaughtering you and your loved ones like cattle for decades for profit. Including members of congress and their families. These REPUBLICANS are FOOLS!

Republicans and their traitorous allies have been trying to make it look like it's President Obama's fault for the delays, and foot dragging. But I think you all know better than that. President Obama inherited one of the worst government catastrophes in American history from these REPUBLICANS! And President Obama has done a brilliant job of turning things around, and working his heart out for all of us.

But Republicans think you are just a bunch of stupid, idiot, cash cows with short memories. Just like they did under the Bush administration when they helped Bush and Cheney rape America and the rest of the World.

But you don't have to put up with that. And this is what you can do. The Republicans below will be up for reelection on November 2, 2010. Just a little over 13 months from now. And many of you will be able to vote early. So pick some names and tell their voters that their representatives (by name) are obstructing TRUE healthcare reform. And are sellouts to the insurance and medical lobbyist.

Ask them to contact their representatives and tell them that they are going to work to throw them out of office on November 2, 2010, if not before by impeachment, or recall elections. Doing this will give you something more to do to make things better in America. And it will make you feel better too.

There are many resources on the internet that can help you find people to call and contact. For example, many social networking sites can be searched by state, city, or University. Be inventive and creative. I can think of many ways to do this. But be nice. These are your neighbors. And most will want to help.

I know there are a few democrats that have been trying to obstruct TRUE healthcare reform too. But the main problem is the Bush Republicans. Removing them is the best thing tactically to do. On the other hand. If you can easily replace a democrat obstructionist with a supportive democrat, DO IT!

You have been AMAZING!!! people. Don't loose heart. You knew it wasn't going to be easy saving the World. :-)

God Bless You

jacksmith — Working Class

Twitter search (#welovethenhs) Check it out.

I REST MY CASE (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/25/why-markets-cant-cure-healthcare/)

Republican Senators up for re-election in 2010.

* Richard Shelby of Alabama
* Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
* John McCain of Arizona
* Mel Martinez of Florida
* Johnny Isakson of Georgia
* Mike Crapo of Idaho
* Chuck Grassley of Iowa
* Sam Brownback of Kansas
* Jim Bunning of Kentucky
* David Vitter of Louisiana
* Kit Bond of Missouri
* Judd Gregg of New Hampshire
* Richard Burr of North Carolina
* George Voinovich of Ohio
* Tom Coburn of Oklahoma
* Jim DeMint of South Carolina
* John Thune of South Dakota
* Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas
* Bob Bennett of Utah

I believe President Obama and the Left have suffered setbacks on this issue at least partly because they haven't identified their opponents' narrative as one of American impotence. Canada, South Korea, Germany, Holland, France and Britain can all have health care for all and better longevity and infant mortality outcomes. But somehow, Americans can only manage to cover fifty million insured people by agreeing to whack both your granny and Trig Palin.

Obama might consider responding to this nonsense by asking his critics exactly what Canadians, Brits, South Koreans, Dutch and French people have got that Americans don't.

Obama might consider responding to this nonsense by asking his critics exactly what Canadians, Brits, South Koreans, Dutch and French people have got that Americans don't.


On the filibuster, how about preserving it exactly as it is (60 votes for everything), but making them actually filibuster? If you're not willing to stand on the floor and continue debating, for hours on end, then you're not really filibustering, are you? You're just threatening to. Make it cost something politically to actually use the obstructionist tactic.


So basically, the demagogues who argue that this plan might cause you to lose your current coverage want to replace it with a plan that will cause you to lose your current coverage. Nice!

Did not find Ezra Klein to be persuasive in the link provided by GheraldL.

Better put was this rebuttal by commenter serialcatowner stating why the public option is essential to any real healthcare reform:

"I don't think Ezra really understands how this plays out at the user end of the stick.

"Pass 'reform' without a public option, and you've got nothing. Oh sure, everyone in the industry and Congress will talk about how they're 'innovating' and saving money and making basic reforms.

"But the people who are uninsured will remain uninsured in reality, even though they may have some kind of 'insurance' that doesn't really mean they can go to the clinic or afford prescriptions.

"The latest rightwing meme has been that there are people who are not really uninsured because they are eligible for Medicaid but aren't enrolled. Why do you think this is? Well, it is because the Medicaid means test, and the demands for prepayment of 'all charges' when you visit the doctor, and the run-around you get from the state, and the lack of facilities where you live.

"And none of this is going to change if we don't draw a line in the sand and say 'Everyone is insured and they can check in and get treated before any demands for payment are made'. Let all the quarreling and bickering start after the patient is seen and treated, and leave the patient out of it.

"If the people who run this country think we can go another 19.5 years with no real reform, we're all doomed anyway. If that's the case, some halfway 'pragmatic' effort to look like reform is nothing more than a bandaid. It might help legislators feel good about themselves, but the chances are they already feel a lot better about themselves than is healthy for any of us.

"Face it, without major, maybe revolutionary change, we just don't have another 19.5 years in us."

"Make it cost something politically to actually use the obstructionist tactic."

As as endlessly pointed out, this tactic is vastly harder on the party which opposes the filibuster, which has to keep a full majority of 50 Senators waiting near the chamber for every moment the filibuster is going on, while the filibustering party need maintain only one Senator at a time to keep the filibuster ongoing.

If you wish to propose correcting this situation, you need to propose exactly how you're going to change that, not just vaguely say that the filibustering side should -- somehow, in some completely unstated manner -- be made to pay a higher price to maintain the filibuster than the side that opposes it.

Making fifty Senators have to stand around, unable to leave the Senate building, for weeks on end, is paying more of a "price" than maintaining one Senator at a time to speak in the chamber. This is the issue. This is why one side doesn't "force" the other side to "actually filibuster." Because look at who is actually paying the far higher price if you try to do that.

What do you propose to cure this? If it's workable, I'm probably for it.

If they droop The Public Option we will have a bunch of people uninsured no matter how much they try to change policies on private insurance.

I have a private Insurance. My husband and I pay about 600 a month and my insurance doesn’t cover dental, eye doctor, and some lab work. It is ridiculous even if you try to work around their network it is just not working for us.

I agreed that the public option is essential for those who can’t pay 800 to 900 hundred dollars a month in insurance. That’s what cobra charges after you get laid off.

Gary - I don't remember the old-timey filibusters well enough to know whether the majority having to hang around is so. And I don't have time right now to look it up.

But there's a BIG difference between 1964 and now, and its spelled "C-SPAN".

The spectacle of the filibusterers droning on and on thru the phone book or their local cattle auctions or their grandkid's school papers or whatever will be broadcast 24/7 and spread in the now-usual ways all over the web and the cable nets. What do you think THAT does to their credibility? Not to mention: it would make great campaign fodder: "here's what YOUR GOP Senator Dumbass did in DC when he was supposed to be working on the country's business..."

In fact I don't know why thay isn't used universally now against the likes of Vitter.

I don't remember the old-timey filibusters well enough to know whether the majority having to hang around is so. And I don't have time right now to look it up.

Yawn. Other people have already looked it up. Including hilzoy. It is in fact so. Gary's right.

But there's a BIG difference between 1964 and now, and its spelled "C-SPAN". The spectacle of the filibusterers droning on and on thru the phone book or their local cattle auctions or their grandkid's school papers or whatever will be broadcast 24/7 and spread in the now-usual ways all over the web and the cable nets.

Republican voters demographically don't get much of their info from the web; humiliating Republican politicians online has little effect. Beyond that, Republican politicians often say absurd ridiculous nutty things on TV and the cable nets do not play those statements over and over in an attempt to humiliate them. Seriously now, given that cable networks take Newt Gingrich seriously no matter how many lies he spews, why on earth would you expect that more graphic demonstrations of Republican mendacity or ignorance are all that is needed? This is bordering on delusion.

Moreover, there's no reason whatsoever why Republicans have to embarrass themselves while filibustering. They could, for example, read constituent letters. Or read think tank reports. The media won't make fun of a senator saying crazy things if it means making fun of some elderly letter writer from the middle of nowhere.

What do you think THAT does to their credibility?

But the Republicans don't have to ruin their credibility. They only need one of them to take the hit, and that brave Senator will probably rake in tons of campaign contributions for being the public face of opposition to health care reform.


Easy fix: Change the cloture requirement to 60% of the senators present (provided you have a quorum, of course).

"I don't remember the old-timey filibusters well enough to know whether the majority having to hang around is so. And I don't have time right now to look it up."

I just remember: how they had to fill everyone's offices and the cloakroom and all with cots, and how cranky everyone got at having to show up in the chamber in bathrobes.

And arrest Senators to get them to show up. Wednesday, February 24, 1988 12:00 AM:

Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) was carried feet first into the Senate chamber by Capitol Police early today as Democrats ordered the arrest of absent senators in a dramatic filibuster showdown over a Democratic bill on spending in senatorial campaigns.

Packwood's arrest came after Democrats forced filibustering Republicans to hold the Senate floor in nonstop session through the night in an attempt to wear down their opposition to the bill.

But as midnight approached, Republicans called the Democrats' bluff by ordering a series of quorum calls and then vanishing, leaving only Minority Whip Alan K. Simpson (Wyo.) to hold the floor. Democrats were unable to muster a quorum on their own and, in a highly unusual move, voted to have the sergeant at arms arrest absent senators in a move to keep the Senate in session until a quorum of at least 51 senators could be obtained.

Shortly after midnight, a posse led by Sergeant at Arms Henry K.

Giugni marched through the Capitol in pursuit of Republican senators, who apparently had gone into hiding, in a maneuver reminiscent of earlier filibusters in which senators sometimes registered in hotels under assumed names to avoid being rounded up for votes.

Later, the posse combed the Senate office buildings and found Packwood, who, as he noted after he was deposited on the Senate floor, "did not come fully voluntarily."

Within minutes, one of the absent Democrats, presidential candidate Paul Simon (Ill.), arrived and the Democrats had their quorum. Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said he regretted the arrest but said he had no alternative and congratulated Packwood "on the fine spirit with which he accepted the inevitable."

Cots were set up for senators in rooms near the Senate chamber, and earlier in the day, Byrd had put the Republicans on notice that they would have to talk, not just threaten to talk, in order to sustain their stalling tactics against the campaign spending legislation.

"I have every intention of staying in continuous session until something happens, until something breaks," he said.

If the Republicans pause too long and lose control of the floor, Byrd warned, he will call for a vote on the bill. Democrats have the votes to pass the legislation but are at least five votes short of the 60 required to break a filibuster.

"It's going to be a long, long debate," Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) agreed as Republicans accepted the challenge and vowed to stand firm against what Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) described as a "silly exercise" that would impede rather than expedite chances of a compromise.

Republicans dismissed Democratic suggestions that they might succumb to public pressure. "We're absolutely solid," McConnell said.

"They {the Democrats} are just trying to attract some attention," said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).

"We hope everyone has his knapsack and sleeping bag," Simpson said.

I'm not saying they shouldn't do this again. I'm just pointing out, for the nth time, that it's harder on the anti-filibusters than the filibusters, and that's why it's so hard to get around to doing it.


[...] Technically, a filibuster is made possible by Senate Rule XIX, the rule governing floor debate, which directs any senator who wants to speak to "rise and address the Presiding Officer." Once recognized by the presiding officer, a senator can keep speaking as long as he or she wishes, day and night, provided that the senator: 1) remain standing and 2) stay in the Senate chamber. This can be hard on: 1) the knees and 2) the bladder, which is why Strom Thurmond deliberately dehydrated himself in a sauna before taking to the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes to rail against a civil rights bill in 1957.

While orating, a senator is permitted to drink only water or milk—the latter according to a ruling found in the encyclopedic Riddick's Senate Procedure, a 1,500-page volume containing 200 years of rulings on arcane matters of Senate governance. Also, the senator may only speak two separate times on any one issue. Facing these constraints, senators who want to filibuster may tag-team, each sermonizing as long as possible—often until hoarse—before yielding the floor to the next speaker. Everyone is free to deliver a second speech on the issue, after which they can make motions or offer amendments—taking turns expounding upon those, too. The filibuster process can last for weeks or more, the record being 75 days in 1964.

Nor must a senator confine herself to the issue or nominee in question. Under Senate rules, senators can talk about anything when they have the floor. In 1935, Sen. Huey Long of Louisiana suspended passage of a bill by lecturing on the Constitution, section by section. When he ran out of text, he recited recipes for fried oysters and something called "potlikkers." In the early 1990s, Sen. Al D'Amato resorted to song — including, one observer recalls — The Yellow Rose of Texas. And on Wednesday, Sen. Robert Byrd kept tradition alive by reminiscing about the courtship of his wife.

The strategy behind the filibuster is obvious—hold up other Senate business, creating pressure to put aside nominees or bills as everything else on the agenda gathers dust. The filibuster tends to be more effective near the end of a term, when Congress is racing to push through as much legislation as it can. But it can be a powerful tool at any point, signaling to the president, public, and press the heartfelt views of minority senators. Southern Democrats in the '50s and '60s, for example, threw everything they had into filibusters against civil rights legislation. They failed, but they stayed in the headlines for months.

While a filibuster would seem to be more taxing on the side doing the talking, that isn't necessarily the case. The filibusterers need only one person in the Senate chamber at any one time, prattling away. The other side must make sure a quorum—a majority of all senators—is on hand, a constitutional requirement for the Senate to conduct business. If there's no quorum after a senator has demanded a quorum call, the Senate must adjourn, giving those leading the filibuster time to go home, sleep, and delay things even more. To ensure a quorum during the rancorous civil rights filibusters, cots were set up in Senate anterooms, and majority senators presented themselves in bathrobes during early-morning quorum calls.

Those seeking a quorum can even demand that the Senate's sergeant at arms arrest senators who aren't present and drag them into the Senate chamber, a measure that has led to absent senators playing hide-and-seek with police officers around Capitol Hill. As recently as 1988, officers physically carried Sen. Robert Packwood onto the Senate floor at the behest of then-Majority Leader Byrd.

Again: it's doable. But the anti-filibustering side has to be even more determined than the filibustering side. That's why filibustering is such a non-idle threat: because it's a heck of a lot easier to filibuster, troublesome than it is, than to break a filibuster, if you don't clearly have 60 votes on your side.

And I'll point out again that Ted Kennedy isn't in a position to vote.

It can be done. But that's the answer to the constant refrain of "I don't understand: why don't the Democrats just make the Republicans carry out a filibuster?"

Answer: it's a huge task to carry out. Are Democratic Senators prepared to have the entire caucus live in the Senate building for a month or two, never leaving, while the Republicans just send in two Senators at a time? Do you think that's something they can afford to do casually?

Either the Democrats can manage to conjure up 60 votes, which means all 58 Democrats, plus Independent Bernie Sanders, including ailing Robert Byrd, not including Ted Kennedy, therefore plus at least one Republican -- or they can't break a filibuster unless somehow the Republicans screw up. It's just that simple.

People who keep saying "but we have 60 votes! I don't understand!" indeed, don't understand.

OK, Gary, then provide a solution. Whatever it is must allow a large majority to block legislation or an appointment that they find particularly egregious (the spirit of the filibuster), but must come with a political cost, such that it's not something that would be undertaken lightly.

The problem, as I see it, isn't that the filibuster exists, but that it's been used too cavalierly in recent years.

@ Turbulence 5:28 pm

Sorry as usual I need to be clearer.
I wouldn't and don't expect the media to carry the Dem's water. I DO expect the Dems and their allies, at all levels, to go balls to the wall with paid media.
You're quite right about the low information wingnut voters. If they weren't that way, they wouldn't be wingnuts. But there is a whole slew of well-informed suburbanites who swing both ways (so to speak) who have been moving ever so slightly leftward on a variety of issues. That's where the votes are, that's where some of the less wingnutty GOP congresspersons and senators come from. Let's go get them.

"The problem, as I see it, isn't that the filibuster exists, but that it's been used too cavalierly in recent years."

I've said many times that I favor limiting the filibuster solely to judicial appointments, on the grounds that they're lifetime appointments, which makes them different than legislation, which if limited to being passed by majority vote, can be repealed by later majority vote.

Appointments to the federal courts, on the other hand, require impeachment and conviction by the entire Senate, for "high crimes and misdemeanors."

So far, in the history of the Republic, we've had six federal judges impeached and removed from office. Four more were tried and aquitted. And one resigned in the middle of proceedings.

It's not done often. In the 20th century, it's only been:

# Charles Swayne, judge of the U.S. District Court for the northern district of Florida; acquitted Feb. 27, 1905.
# Robert W. Archbald, associate judge, U.S. Commerce Court; removed Jan. 13, 1913.
# George W. English, judge of the U.S. District Court for eastern district of Illinois; resigned Nov. 4, 1926; proceedings dismissed.
# Harold Louderback, judge of the U.S. District Court for the northern district of California; acquitted May 24, 1933.
# Halsted L. Ritter, judge of the U.S. District Court for the southern district of Florida; removed from office April 17, 1936.
# Harry E. Claiborne, judge of the U.S. District Court for the district of Nevada; removed from office Oct. 9, 1986.
# Alcee L. Hastings, judge of the U.S. District Court for the southern district of Florida; removed from office Oct. 20, 1989.
# Walter L. Nixon, judge of the U.S. District Court for Mississippi; removed from office Nov. 3, 1989.
So I think filibustering judicial appointments is reasonable; it's a very high bar to get a federal judge out of office.

But otherwise, I think we can probably eliminate the filibuster, and have less evil than is presently being done with it as used today.

I've only come to this opinion fairly recently, as I'm actually extremely conservative about changing the ways our government functions. But the way the filibuster has been used in recent years has been a dramatic change from earlier decades, and I consider it an abuse that has passed the point of being tolerable, and must be stopped.

I'm open to other proposals.

How about changing the rules of the filibuster so that all 40 who oppose cloture must be present the whole time?

(For judicial appointments, I support making all such appointments require a 2/3 majority for confirmation. Most appointments, except for the controversial ones, pass with near-unanimous support, and it would prevent either side from packing the court with divisive nominees.)

"Because no repub has offered any alternative or compromise at all. None."

OK. So the Republicans as a "compromise" have offered a tax and spending cut. Thereby channeling even more money into the pockets of the leeches that make up the health insurance providers. And reducing the competition on the healthcare providers by cutting the public provision.

That isn't a compromise. That's an attempt to make the situation even worse.

efgoldman, you haven't addressed my central point: there is no reason for filibustering Republicans to humiliate themselves. It is not humiliating to read your constituents' letters. It is not humiliating to read a dry as dust think tank report on health care economics.

Even if Republicans did act in really stupid ways, there's no reason to think that Dems will be able to construct a media narrative that favors them. I mean, when have they done that successfully in the recent past? How could they compete with the romanticism of the brave Republican lawmaker struggling to do the right thing despite ferocious criticism for his constituents?

BUSTED! Government Healthcare Advocate Admits Public Option is Trojan Horse!


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