“Make them filibuster”

I love Democrats with balls. They’re a rare breed, but they do exist. And, occasionally, if you’re real lucky, you can spot one on television. This weekend, I caught a glimpse of one on ABC News. It was Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. And, he wasn’t mincing words. His advice to Democrats in Congress? Put up the best healthcare bill you can, he said, and “make the Republican filibuster.” Here’s a video clip:

I just wish one of my elected officials would have the balls to stand up and say something this simple and beautiful: “My message to those Democrats is don’t be afraid,” said Rendell. “Listen, you got elected because you wanted to do something to change the quality of people’s lives – here we have a chance to do something historic and if it means some of us are going to lose because of that so be it. At least you will have lost your office fighting for something and accomplishing something.”

But, will Obama step up to the challenge? That’s the question. And, last night, in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer he was asked. Unfortunately, though, he didn’t really answer the question… Here’s a clip from the transcript:

SAWYER: Two diametrically opposing paths have been laid out by your supporters. One is come out swinging, go down for history, let everyone — let the Republicans filibuster and do it and the other is slow down, scale back, less money. Which is it going to be?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I reject those two polar opposites. Here’s what I can tell you. I will not slow down in terms of going after the big problems that this country faces because other countries aren’t slow(ing) down.

SAWYER: But it’s about money…

OBAMA: Asia is not slowing down. Europe’s not slowing down. They’re worried about getting the competitive advantage in terms of clean energy. They’re worried about their kids. Our health-care system is unsustainable.

So on the big issues, I am going to keep on pushing not because I welcome controversy. The easiest thing for me to do — the easiest thing for me to do, Diane, would be to go small bore, avoid controversy, just make sure that everybody’s comfortable and we only propose things that don’t threaten any special interests in Washington.

If you do that, then you can get a boost in the poll numbers but, ultimately, you’re not solving problems that are vital to making sure the American dream continues for the next generation. And I don’t want to look back on my time here and say to myself, all I was concerned about was nurturing my own popularity. That’s not why I came.

And so the one thing that I think — whether it’s supporters or opponents — should know is that I am not backing off the need for us to tackle these big problems in a serious way….

And, lastly, for some good background on the filibuster, how it negatively impacts democracy today, and what our options are going forward, check out this article from Think Progress… Here’s a clip:

While it is now taken for granted than any major piece of legislation needs 60 votes to pass the Senate, this has not always been the case. Use of the filibuster — the minority’s tactic to halt action on a bill through endless debate — has skyrocketed in the past two decades, creating a de facto need for 60 votes to get anything done. It only requires 51 votes to pass any bill, but it takes 60 votes to invoke cloture to end debate and pass the bill. There are now double the number of cloture votes as there were a decade ago, and triple the numbers of 20 years ago. As evidenced by the ongoing health care reform debate, the filibuster cripples the Senate’s ability to make progress. The filibuster also gives a undue amount of power to individual senators and allows them to exploit the process for their narrow interests, dictating policy outcomes. For instance, Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) threat to filibuster health care reform forced the removal of the public option and the Medicare buy-in, despite their tremendous popularity…

I’m tired of being afraid of 41 Republicans and a Lieberman. How about you?

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  1. Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    As a republican, I would love to see an old-fashioned, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington filibuster live on CNN. Hour after hour of republicans talking about conservative principles of government and their alternatives for healthcare reform (which Pelosi and Reid blocked from even reaching the floor of the House or Senate last year).

    It would be even better than the House Republicans “sit-in” last year, since C-SPAN cameras could not be turned off by Democrat party leaders.

    Great idea!

  2. Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I hate how hypocritical republicans can be about bipartisanship. When they’re running the ship they have no problem taking it in an direction they want. When they’re the minority they cry about how we should work together. I’m tired of these bullies. In an after school special we would have stood up to them.

  3. Posted January 26, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    On The Media had a good segment about the filibuster on their most recent show. A few key excerpts:

    In the 1960s, a filibuster, or the threat of one, prevented just 8 percent of major legislation from becoming law. In the ’80s, that percentage rose to 27. After the 2006 elections, it went up to 70 percent, and in 2009, Republican senators used the threat of a filibuster on almost every piece of major legislation.

    There were two really significant dates in the modern history of the filibuster. One was in 1975, when the proceeding practice for many, many decades, which is that it took 67 votes to break a filibuster but it had to be a real one, with people giving real speeches, that was replaced by a kind of gentleman’s agreement where it only took 60 votes to break a filibuster, but the opponents didn’t have to actually do anything. They could just file a little notice saying, we oppose this coming to the floor.

    It also is interesting to me that when the shoe was, was momentarily on the other foot, that is, during the Bush administration when the Democrats had a minority in the Senate and they were blocking some judicial nominations, the Republicans made a big deal of this in talking about the need for a clear up or down vote. And during that time, the press was more attentive to that positioning of it and sort of the obstruction than they’ve been in the recent past where the Republicans have been doing it. I suggest that the Republicans are simply better at positioning this for the press than the Democrats have proven to be.

  4. Oliva
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Re. old-fashioned filibuster, not even possible with this bunch. But would be a long grueling stonewall indeed: “No! Boo! No! The American people . . . NO-no-no! Reagan . . . Boo! Reagan! I said ‘Boo!’ And I also didn’t say ‘Boo!’ but be scared anyway. Waterloo. No!”

    On a separate note, anyone read the New Yorker piece about the rise of the Tea Baggers?


  5. Teddy
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Someone’s made a “Get Some Balls” ad campaign.


  6. Alvin
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Ben Frumin at Talking Points Memo disagrees that we should encourage the filibuster, as it won’t yield positive results. What we need is to change the cloture rules, but that can’t happen without a two-thirds vote.


  7. Kim
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Can someone remind me what the “nuclear option” was? Or do I need to Google?

  8. Dirtgrain
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    “I hate how hypocritical republicans can be about bipartisanship.”

    It goes both ways. It does seem to me that the Democratic Party recently has lacked an audacity that paralleled that of the Neocons. Are they wisely exercising moderation, or are they politically timid? Whatever–I’m sick of the two-party system.

  9. Posted January 26, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    You can find an old post about the nuclear option here, Kim.

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