FILIBUSTER REFORM FILIBUSTERED: Filibuster reform has never come easy, and only the most naïve observers ever thought it would be achieved without a fight this year. Senate Democrats who propose to constrain abuses of the parliamentary procedure—by requiring that senators who seek to block action on a bill do so openly and engage in the traditional speechifying rather than rely on secret holds and threats—got a sense of the perilous politics of the reform process when the new Senate was called into session.
For all the talk of rewriting the rules on the first day, majority leader Harry Reid was not going there. Though Reid admits that Senate filibuster rules have been “abused, and abused gratuitously…in truly unprecedented fashion,” indications are that the Democratic leader hopes to cut a deal with his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, to place loose limits on the types of bills that can be blocked without creating a “nuclear” confrontation between the two parties. How far Reid will bend, and how far reformers will get, will be defined over the next few weeks.
Conservatives, who just six years ago were talking about having Vice President Dick Cheney arbitrarily alter filibuster rules, are organizing to defend the status quo as nothing less than the intent of the founders. They are, of course, fostering a fantasy. Filibuster reform of the sort proposed by Democratic senators like New Mexico’s Tom Udall and Oregon’s Jeff Merkley are moving the Senate toward more honest debate and strengthening democracy.
But can that truth cut through the spin? The Fix the Senate Now coalition (fixthesenatenow.com) is working hard to spread the word. But the volume has to be turned up. The only way that filibuster reform will happen in this Congress is if progressives across the country make this procedural fight central to their activism over the next few weeks. Today’s Democratic senators need to hear, as Democratic senators did in the 1950s and ’60s (when filibuster reformers sought to clear barriers to civil rights legislation), that their base voters recognize the supposedly arcane debate about Senate rules to be essential to the broader progressive agenda. JOHN NICHOLS
RAHM REDUX: Rahm Emanuel is off and running for mayor of Chicago, but his ghost may soon be making a return to the White House in the form of fellow Chicagoan Bill Daley, whom President Obama is considering naming as Rahm’s replacement as chief of staff. The post is currently filled by low-key Obama aide Pete Rouse.
Daley, brother of outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, was commerce secretary under Bill Clinton, the chief architect of NAFTA, chair of Al Gore‘s 2000 presidential campaign, a top adviser and fundraiser for the Obama campaign and, most recently, Midwest chair of JPMorgan Chase. He shares the corporate centrism of Emanuel and, when it comes to economic issues, may be more conservative. As former AFL-CIO head John Sweeney once said, Daley stood “squarely on the opposite side of working families.”