NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

U.S. Senate’s Pacific Northwest delegation votes along party lines to reform the filibuster

As men­tioned, Democ­rats set up a his­toric vote today on curb­ing the fil­i­buster, which Repub­li­cans have been using to pre­vent the Unit­ed States Sen­ate from con­sid­er­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s exec­u­tive and judi­cial nom­i­nees. The vote was a suc­cess, with fifty Democ­rats and two inde­pen­dents back­ing the rules change.

Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Har­ry Reid orches­trat­ed the vote by bring­ing one of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s stalled nom­i­na­tions for the D.C. Cir­cuit back to the floor for con­sid­er­a­tion. Repub­li­cans robot­i­cal­ly fil­i­bus­tered as expect­ed, and at that point, Reid moved to change the rules by appeal­ing a par­lia­men­tary rul­ing.

Three Democ­rats refused to back the rules change: Carl Levin of Michi­gan (who is retir­ing), Mark Pry­or of Arkansas, and Joe Manchin of West Vir­ginia. Every Repub­li­can vot­ed to keep the fil­i­buster as is, and every oth­er Demo­c­rat, plus Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont and Angus King of Maine, vot­ed to reform it.

Con­se­quent­ly, the vote of the Pacif­ic North­west del­e­ga­tion broke down strict­ly along par­ty lines. Here is the roll call, for the record:

Vot­ing Aye (to keep the fil­i­buster as is): Repub­li­cans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Ida­ho, Lisa Murkows­ki of Alas­ka

Vot­ing Nay (to reform the fil­i­buster): Democ­rats Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell of Wash­ing­ton, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Ore­gon, Max Bau­cus and Jon Tester of Mon­tana, Mark Begich of Alas­ka

Ore­gon’s Jeff Merkley, who has been a leader in the effort to reform the fil­i­buster, released a state­ment in the after­math of the vote, cel­e­brat­ing the rules change as a huge step for­ward. Here is the text of his state­ment:

Today’s rule change is a vic­to­ry for the Amer­i­can peo­ple. The end­less abuse of the fil­i­buster on nom­i­na­tions has done great dam­age to the inde­pen­dence of our courts. The minor­i­ty par­ty has fil­i­bus­tered too many qual­i­fied nom­i­nees to our Exec­u­tive and Judi­cial branch­es, not because of any char­ac­ter or qual­i­fi­ca­tion issues, but because they were nom­i­nat­ed by our cur­rent Pres­i­dent. That is just wrong.

Nom­i­nees deserve up or down votes. These fil­i­busters have been con­trary to the spir­it of our Con­sti­tu­tion, which envi­sions coequal branch­es of gov­ern­ment.

The nom­i­nees that the Sen­ate minor­i­ty has blocked over the past year were nom­i­nat­ed to posi­tions that affect the Amer­i­can peo­ple and the econ­o­my in vital ways, includ­ing the nom­i­nees to head the Con­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau and the Fed­er­al Hous­ing Finance Agency.  The judges on the D.C. Cir­cuit Court rule on issues that direct­ly and deeply impact mid­dle class fam­i­lies, like health care, work­place safe­ty, and clean air and water rules.

More­over, the end­less fil­i­busters have tak­en up end­less weeks of the Senate’s time, bet­ter spent on boost­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing, invest­ing in our infra­struc­ture, and improv­ing edu­ca­tion.

End­ing the abu­sive fil­i­buster on nom­i­na­tions is a big step toward restor­ing the func­tion­al­i­ty of the Sen­ate, and that mat­ters for all of us. I hope we con­tin­ue to look at ways to make this leg­isla­tive body work bet­ter. We face big chal­lenges as a nation, and we need a Con­gress that can take on those chal­lenges.

The Sen­ate is expect­ed to begin con­firm­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s D.C. Cir­cuit nom­i­nees (Patri­cia Mil­let, Nina Pil­lard Judge Robert Wilkins), begin­ning next week.

At least through 2014, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma will now be able to nom­i­nate qual­i­fied indi­vid­u­als to serve on his exec­u­tive team or on the fed­er­al bench with­out hav­ing to wor­ry about Repub­li­cans block­ing them from even receiv­ing a vote. Repub­li­cans, of course, have even more rea­son now to want to retake the Sen­ate major­i­ty in 2014.

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