The Ed Show | November 27, 2012
>>> thanks for staying with "the ed show" tonight. the story goes to the heart of what we deserve. if we elect someone to the senate , we expect them to do what? get something done. unfortunately the republicans have been using the filibuster to block legislation. now the democrats want to change the rules to keep the next group of republicans from doing the same thing. we'll talk about those changes in a moment. first republicans have used the filibuster and really used it as well. it's normally a great tool for the minority to have a voice. it can slow down a discussion of a bill. it allows the minority to make changes before a vote. filibuster can also kill a bill, even if the majority of senators want to pass it. now over the last four years, the republicans have been using the filibuster as really a political weapon to cripple the senate and movement at all. here's a comparison. lyndon johnson served as senate majority leader for the same amount of time as harry reid . now the former president saw one filibuster during his tenure as senate majority leader. one? that's right. harry reid has seen 386. do we see a pattern here at all? so reid is proposing the following rule changes. republicans can't filibuster after having a debate over a bill. democrats shouldn't have to wait as long for a filibuster to be revolved. if republicans want to filibuster, they should have to talk about it. they shouldn't be able to hide in their offices while all this filibustering takes place. come out and talk it over, again and again for a lengthy period of time. the republicans claim that these changes are not fair. blocking legislation for another four years isn't fair to the american people or the process either. it's harry reid 's call. joining me is steve benan. great to have you with us. thanks for your time. these rule changes that harry reid and the senate democrats are talking about, how drastic are they and how much of an effect could they have?
>> one might think they are outrageous. in reality, the measures that you identified are modest. for many people who are eager to see major changes in the senate because of its dysfunction, this is something of an underwhelming proposal that we see coming from senate democrats . the kind of changes we'd see are minor. and ultimately the super majorities we have seen become so standard throughout the senate in recent years would remain in place. the changes are actually quite minor.
>> do you think it would be enough? i think that harry reid wouldn't be proposing this if he didn't think this was going to remedy the situation. but there's still a way that the republicans could throw up a bunch of filibusters, correct?
>> absolutely. the right of the minority to filibuster would be maintained regardless of the forms are adopted or not. harry reid is correct that some changes are necessary, and this would be a step in the right direction. at the same time, i don't think anyone on either side would be able to characterize this fairly as a sweeping overhaul of senate rules . they are just not that sweeping.
>> do you think it would work?
>> i think it would have some effect. there are all kinds of possibilities in terms of reforms. some have gone to suggest that the filibuster should be removed all together and it should be a majority rule institution the way it used to be. the kind of changes that democrats have in mind would make a difference. i just don't know how much. we also don't have all the details yet. we don't know to what extent he wants to make changes. it looks like we'd see an incremental step in the right direction.
>> it's interesting to view the republicans on this. mitch mcconnell quoted robert bird today saying that bird would have wanted these rule changes. is he correct?
>> it's hard to speculate. senator bird is no longer with us and we can only imagine what he'd be saying. when senator bird was elected to the senate in 1959 ; in that congress there was one filibuster for the entire congress. in the last congress, there was 137. so while robert was an institutionalist and wanted to protect the senate , he couldn't have imagined a situation that we find ourselves in now. which is one where republicans are filibustering every bill of any consequence. neither could the founding fathers . the senate wasn't designed to work this way.
>> senator bird would not want these rule changes, would be going against what the democrats want right now. the bottom line here is the danger in changing the fill bus filibuster rule. i mean i see both sides of it. let them go ahead and filibuster politically with the american people . the next election psych sl going to come around and the republicans could pay a heavy price in the next election. the question is, is it worth that? can we afford as a country to have that many filibusters again and not move forward, especially on things like the economy. steve be nen, great to have you with us.
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