Category Archives: Washington

In Which Harry Reid Waxes Eloquent On The Many Virtues Of The Filibuster

The full text of Reid’s 2005 floor speech:

Mr. President, yesterday morning I spoke here about a statement the Majority Leader issued calling the filibuster a “procedural gimmick.”

The Websters dictionary defines “gimmick” as – - “an ingenious new scheme or angle.” No Mr. President, the filibuster is not a scheme. And it is not new. The filibuster is far from a “procedural gimmick.” It is part of the fabric of this institution. It was well known in colonial legislatures, and it is an integral part of our country’s 217 years of history.

The first filibuster in the U.S. Congress happened in 1790. It was used by lawmakers from Virginia and South Carolina who were trying to prevent Philadelphia from hosting the first Congress.

Since 1790, the filibuster has been employed hundreds and hundreds of times. Senators have used it to stand up to popular presidents. To block legislation. And yes – even to stall executive nominees.

The roots of the filibuster can be found in the Constitution and in the Senate rules.

In establishing each House of Congress, Article I Section 5 of the Constitution states that “Each House may determine the rules.”

In crafting the rules of the Senate, Senators established the right to extended debate – and they formalized it with Rule XXII almost 100 years ago. This rule codified the practice that Senators could debate extensively.

Under Rule XXII, debate may be cut off under limited circumstances.

    • 67 votes to end a filibuster of a motion to amend a Senate rule
    • 60 votes to end a filibuster against any other legislative business.

A conversation between Thomas Jefferson and George Washington describes the United States Senate and our Founders Fathers vision of it.
Jefferson asked Washington what is the purpose of the Senate?

Washington responded with a question of his own, “Why did you pour that coffee into your saucer?” “To cool it,” Jefferson replied. To which Washington said; “Even so, we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.”

And this is exactly what the filibuster does. It encourages moderation and consensus. It gives voice to the minority, so that cooler heads may prevail.

It also separates us from the House of Representatives – where the majority rules. And it is very much in keeping with the spirit of the government established by the Framers of our Constitution: Limited Government…Separation of Powers…Checks and Balances.

Mr. President, the filibuster is a critical tool in keeping the majority in check. This central fact has been acknowledged and even praised by Senators from both parties.

In fact, my colleague from Georgia – Senator Isakson – recently shared a conversation he had with an official from the Iraqi government. The Senator had asked this official if he was worried that the majority in Iraq would overrun the minority. But the official replied… “no….we have the secret weapon called the ‘filibuster.’”

In recalling that conversation, Senator Isakson remarked: “If there were ever a reason for optimism… it is one of [the Iraqi] minority leaders, proudly stating one of the pillars and principles of our government, as the way they would ensure that the majority never overran the minority.”

And he was right. I spoke yesterday about Senator Holt and his 1939 filibuster to protect workers’ wages and hours. There are also recent examples of the filibuster achieving good.

In 1985, Senators from rural states used the filibuster to force Congress to address a major crisis in which thousands of farmers were on the brink of bankruptcy. In 1995, the filibuster was used by Senators to protect the rights of workers to a fair wage and a safe workplace.

Now Mr. President, I will not stand here and say the filibuster has always been used for positive purposes. Just as it has been used to bring about social change, it was also used to stall progress that this country needed to make. It is often shown that the filibuster was used against Civil Right legislation. But Civil Rights legislation passed – - Civil Rights advocates met the burden.

And it is noteworthy that today the Congressional Black Caucus is opposed to the Nuclear Option. For further analysis, let’s look at Robert Caro, a noted historian and Pulitzer Prize winner.

At a meeting I attended with other Senators, he spoke about the history of the filibuster. He made a point about its legacy that was important. He noted that when legislation is supported by the majority of Americans, it eventually overcomes a filibuster’s delay – as public protest far outweighs any Senator’s appetite to filibuster.

But when legislation only has the support of the minority, the filibuster slows the legislation …prevents a Senator from ramming it through…and gives the American people enough time join the opposition.

Mr. President, the right to extended debate is never more important than when one party controls Congress and the White House. In these cases, the filibuster serves as a check on power and preserves our limited government.

Right now, the only check on President Bush is the Democrats ability to voice their concern in the Senate. If Republicans rollback our rights in this Chamber, there will be no check on their power. The radical, right wing will be free to pursue any agenda they want. And not just on judges. Their power will be unchecked on Supreme Court nominees…the President’s nominees in general…and legislation like Social Security privatization.

Of course the President would like the power to name anyone he wants to lifetime seats on the Supreme Court and other federal courts. And that is why the White House has been aggressively lobbying Senate Republicans to change Senate rules in a way that would hand dangerous new powers to the President over two separate branches – the Congress and the Judiciary.

Unfortunately, this is part of a disturbing pattern of behavior by this White House and Republicans in Washington. From Dick Cheney’s fight to slam the doors of the White House on the American people…

To the President’s refusal to cooperate with the 9-11 Commission… To Senate Republicans attempt to destroy the last check in Washington on Republican power…To the House Majority’s quest to silence the minority in the House…

Republicans have sought to destroy the balance of power in our government by grabbing power for the presidency, silencing the minority and weakening our democracy.

America does not work the way the radical right-wing dictates to President Bush and the Republican Senate Leaders. And Mr. President, that is not how the United States Senate works either.

For 200 years, we’ve had the right to extended debate. It’s not some “procedural gimmick.” It’s within the vision of the Founding Fathers of our country. They established a government so that no one person – and no single party – could have total control.

Some in this Chamber want to throw out 217 years of Senate history in the quest for absolute power.

They want to do away with Mr. Smith coming to Washington. They want to do away with the filibuster. They think they are wiser than our Founding Fathers.

I doubt that’s true.

Truth pouring from the mouth of Harry Reid; you don’t see that every day. And yesterday he threw it all away for a lie…the lie that Senate Republicans are blocking President Obama’s judicial appointments at an unprecedented rate. Here’s the truth:

According to a May report from the Congressional Research Service, President Obama had 71.4% of his circuit court nominees approved during his first term, which is slightly better than George W. Bush’s 67.3% level of success during his first term.

President Obama also didn’t fare the worst when it comes to district court nominees. During his first term, 82.7% of Obama’s district court nominees were approved, George H.W. Bush had 76.9% of his nominees approved.

And, for the record, Obama’s nominees are being confirmed in fewer days than Bush’s appointees.

But in recent years, it’s the amount of time it takes to get a nominee approved where the most radical change has taken place.

For example, during Reagan’s first term, it only took 45.5 days for one of his nominees to get approved. That number escalated only marginally over the next 20 years. But by the time George W. Bush was in office, the number skyrocketed to 277 days. Obama has fared slightly better than Bush, with his nominees taking 225.5 days to get approved. But historically speaking, it’s still a severe departure from most presidencies.

So, at the end of the day, Obama’s experience may not be quite as unique as he wants the public to believe. (Full article.)

 

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When Will You Fight?

Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; 

If you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly;

You may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival.

There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves. 

~Winston Churchill

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How Stupid?

Here’s the question: How stupid does one have to be to disqualify one’s self from employment as an anchor at CNN? The answer, apparently, is “pretty damn stupid,” as demonstrated by Carol Costello this morning during coverage of the D.C. Navy Yard shooting.

On the off chance that the powers that be at CNN think this does disqualify Costello, my dog Shasta is available as a replacement. I think her IQ would match up favorably with Costello, and she looks great on camera.
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Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home!

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourn of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

~Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Please take a moment to remember Elaine Cillo, Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty.

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And Here Is What I Love About Rand Paul

He is fearless in speaking the truth as he understands it…without the Crazy Uncle Harry vibe I always got from his dad.

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Piers Morgan…

Man without a country?

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Irony Upon Irony

Piers MorganPiers Morgan thinks it’s ironic that there’s a campaign to deport him for exercising his right to free speech under the 1st Amendment

I think it’s ironic that Piers Morgan claims 1st Amendment protection in his campaign to strip law-abiding, actual citizens of their 2nd Amendment rights.

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Karma. I Hear She’s A Bitch.

It looks like JB Properties is having a bad day. That’s what happens, I guess, when you order seniors living in your adult apartment complex to take down their Christmas tree.

JBProperties

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Bob. Just. Stop. Talking.

Please. Because I don’t really have time for all this writing.

You’re so close to the truth, here, Bob (can I call you Bob?), but you’re blinded by your anti-gun bias.

“Give me one example of an athlete — I know it’s happened in society — but give me one example of a professional athlete who by virtue of his having a gun, took a dangerous situation and turned it around for the better. I can’t think of a single one. But sadly, I can think of dozens where by virtue of having a gun, a professional athlete wound up in a tragic situation.”

Getting back to the idea that you’re a moron, how can you speak those words and not understand what you’re saying? Let me break it down for you.

  1. You can’t think of a single example where a gun, in the hands of a professional athlete, led to a good outcome in a dangerous situation.
  2. You acknowledge that guns do contribute to good outcomes in those situations among the general population.
  3. You can’t think of a single example where a gun, in the hands of a professional athlete, led to a good outcome in a dangerous situation.
  4. You acknowledge that guns do contribute to good outcomes in those situations among the general population.

Do you see where I’m going with this? You’re not talking about a problem with the “gun culture”, whatever it is that you mean by that, Bob, and you’re not talking about a problem with the law-abiding general population. You’re talking about a problem with the pro sports culture.  And when I say “pro sports,” I’m mainly talking about football today and I’m including D1 college ball.

Now, there are many, many fine, law-abiding, upstanding individuals playing pro sports and this post specifically does not refer to them; unfortunately there are also a substantial number who take their own press too seriously. They’ve been pampered, coddled and told they’re special…some of them since before they entered high school. It’s not hard to imagine how they come to feel entitled to special treatment. They indiscriminately father illegitimate children, some of them in numbers that would be comic if it weren’t so tragic. Then, they mock Tim Tebow for declining to join them in their bad behavior.

They’ve not been made to face the consequences of their own actions. A case in point? Jerramy Stevens, a man who should have been in jail for assault but instead was playing football, on “scholarship” (and don’t even get me started on that), at the University of Washington, where he committed rape, but instead of serving time, was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks. And who, a decade later, is still behaving badly.

Maybe it’s just me, but this is not my idea of a healthy sub-culture. And, Bob, you project it onto the larger population. Now you think we need to have a conversation about guns and easy access to guns. I disagree. I don’t think that law-abiding citizens should have to accept, or even consider, any more infringements on their Constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms. Maybe it is time, though, to have a conversation about the pro sports culture and how it contributes to producing infantile men-children who blunder about like malicious Baby Hueys, unaware of their own potential for causing harm, requiring ever increasing amounts of supervision to keep them from harming themselves and those around them.

And that’s a conversation where I think you could add some value, Bob.

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Bob Costas Still Wrong on Gun Control

Bob Costas laments the fact that he broke his own rule about not commenting on nuanced topics unless there’s enough time to “flesh them out.” Sadly, given more time to discuss his thoughts on gun control, he is still wrong.

“Here’s where I stand: I do not want to see the Second Amendment repealed. … People should be allowed to own guns for their own protection. Obviously, those who are hunters. … Access to guns is too easy in some cases. I don’t see any reason a citizen should be able to arm himself in some states in ways only police or military should — to have a virtual militia [by] mail order or gun shows. Why do you need a semi-automatic weapon? What possible use is there? … Whitlock wrote about a gun culture. That’s what I was focusing on.”

 Isn’t that special? Bob doesn’t want to see the Second Amendment repealed. Good for him! But it appears that he may not be fully aware of the actual wording of said amendment.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Bob doesn’t think we need any pesky militias, but that would seem to be the very intent of the authors of the Second Amendment. A wise person once wrote, “Whether or not the ‘framers of the Constitution’ envisioned semi-automatic weapons has no bearing on the advisability of the current legislation. Rep. Kohl-Wells should re-read the 2nd Amendment and try to understand the thinking behind it. The 2nd Amendment wasn’t written to protect the rights of hunters and sportsmen; it was written to protect the ‘the security of a free state.’ Consequently, it should be assumed that the author envisioned citizens as being well armed according to the standard of the day.”

Sorry, Bob…keep spinning.

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