Entries in Filibuster (9)


Nuclear Flashback: When Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell Sang Different Tunes

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly a decade ago, the nuclear tables were turned in the Senate when the two leaders at the center of this month’s squabble over the so-called “nuclear option” sang entirely different tunes on the filibuster.

In 2005, then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., threatened to invoke the “nuclear option” against Democrats filibustering President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, who was then a part of the majority leadership, was one of the Republicans hoping to stop the minority’s use of the filibuster over judicial nominees. Then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, defended his party’s tactics and fought to prevent Republicans from changing the rules.

Democrats and Republicans eventually worked out a deal, saving the Senate from complete nuclear meltdown for the time being, but eight years later, the two leaders have reversed their positions on the nuclear option.

So this time around, as Reid readies the nukes in the Senate and McConnell is arming his own troops for retaliation, here is a comparison of each leader’s statements on the nuclear option between the fight in 2005 and now. Times may change, but in Washington, it seems that hypocrisy is forever.

Harry Reid Then
“If there were ever an example of an abuse of power, this is it… The filibuster is the last check we have against the abuse of power in Washington.” – Harry Reid 2005

“Republicans are in power today, Democrats tomorrow. A simple majority can change anything. Mr. President, this is the way it should be. You should not be able to come in here and change willy-nilly a rule of the Senate.” – Harry Reid on Senate floor, May 23, 2005

“I just couldn’t believe that Bill Frist was going to do this. The storm had been gathering all year, and word from conservative columnists and in conservative circles was that Senator Frist of Tennessee, who was the Majority Leader, had decided to pursue a rules change that would kill the filibuster for judicial nominations. And once you opened that Pandora’s box, it was just a matter of time before a Senate leader who couldn’t get his way on something moved to eliminate the filibuster for regular business as well. And that, simply put, would be the end of the United States Senate.” – Harry Reid in his 2008 book The Good Fight

“As long as I am the leader, the answer’s no. I think we should just forget that. That is a black chapter in the history of the Senate. I hope we never ever get to that again because I really do believe it will ruin our country.” – Harry Reid on nuclear option, C-SPAN interview, Sept. 12, 2008

Harry Reid Now
“I’m going to go to the floor on Tuesday and do what I need to do so this doesn’t happen anymore.” – Harry Reid in news conference on Capitol Hill, July 11, 2013

“A consistent and unprecedented obstruction by this Republican Congress has turned advise and consent into deny and obstruct. Republicanism obstruction is to deny President Obama the ability to choose a team. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican or independent, we should all be able to agree that presidents deserve the team members they want, and their nomination be subject to simple up-or-down votes.” – Harry Reid on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

“The American people know this dysfunction we have here. And all we’re asking is, let the president have his team. We’re not talking about changing the filibuster rules that relates to nominations or judges. We’re saying we shouldn’t be held up — we have 15 nominees who have been held up for an average of nine months. Does the place need to be changed? Yes.” – Harry Reid on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

Mitch McConnell Then
“The majority in the Senate is prepared to restore the Senate’s traditions and precedence to ensure that regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full and fair debate, receive a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. It’s time to move away from … advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, May 19, 2005

“This is not the first time a minority of senators has upset a Senate tradition or practice, and the current Senate majority intends to do what the majority in the Senate has often done–use its constitutional authority under article I, section 5, to reform Senate procedure by a simple majority vote. Despite the incredulous protestations of our Democratic colleagues, the Senate has repeatedly adjusted its rules as circumstances dictate.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, May 23, 2005

“The time has come to change the rules. I want to change them in an orderly fashion. I want a time agreement. But, barring that, if I have to be forced into a corner to try for majority vote I will do it because I am going to do my duty as I see my duty, whether I win or lose…. If we can only change an abominable rule by majority vote, that is in the interests of the Senate and in the interests of the nation that the majority must work its will. And it will work its will.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, May 23, 2005

Mitch McConnell Now
“It would be naive to assume that you could break the rules of the Senate in order to change the rules for the Senate only for nominations, that there would be a widespread clamor across our conference, were we to be in the majority, to take that precedent and apply it to everything else…. As Harry Reid, as Lamar pointed out in his book in 2007, using the nuclear option is the end of the Senate — I repeat, the end of the Senate. It turns the Senate into the House.” – Mitch McConnell in news conference on Capitol Hill, June 18, 2013

“This is about trying to come up with excuses to break our commitments. What this is about is manufacturing a pretext for a power grab.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

“They’re willing to irreparably damage the Senate to ensure that they get their way.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

“That would violate every protection of minority rights that have defined the United States Senate for as long as anyone can remember. Let me assure you, this Pandora’s box, once opened, will be utilized again and again by future majorities. And it will make the meaningful consensus-building that has served our nation so well a relic — a relic of the past.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Wendy Davis: I’ll ‘Fight With Every Fiber’ to Stop Abortion Bill

ABC News(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- The Democratic state senator who is leading the fight against significant new restrictions on abortions in Texas said Gov. Rick Perry and other Republicans were hypocritical, claiming to support smaller government but actually trying to increase state intrusion in people’s lives.

Wendy Davis, the lawmaker who almost single-handedly overcame and outlasted the Republican majority in the state senate last week, is preparing for another battle on Monday. Armed with her new-found fame in Democratic circles in Texas and across the nation, Davis vowed to fight even harder.

“He’s awfully fond of talking the talk of small government,” Davis told ABC’s This Week, escalating an intense quarrel with Perry. “But this [anti-abortion legislation] is big government intrusion, there is no question about it.”

In an interview to be broadcast Sunday, Davis sat down with This Week inside the Stage West Theatre in Fort Worth, where she worked her way from being a waitress to a Harvard-educated lawyer to a heroine in the eyes of many Democrats.

She offered a window into the secrets of standing and talking for more than 11 straight hours during a legislative filibuster: her dusty running shoes (size 7 Mizuno, narrow); a catheter that allowed her to avoid bathroom breaks (“I came prepared,” she explained); and how she felt the spirit of her hero, the late Gov. Ann Richards, during her marathon session in the Capitol in Austin.

“I was going to wear just some little flat dress shoes. At the last minute, I was running out of my apartment and I thought maybe I might need something with a little more support, so I grabbed these on the way out the door,” Davis said, pointing to her sneakers that have gained Internet fame. “These are actually my running shoes. They’re dusty from the trail around Ladybird Lake.”

In an expansive interview about her life, the state of Texas politics and her future, Davis said she was heartened by the outpouring of support from women and Democrats, which catapulted her from local legislator to one of her party’s prospective rising stars. Asked if she planned to run for governor in 2014, she smiled.

Perry, who has singled out Davis for sharp criticism for her efforts to stop legislation to make Texas one of the most restrictive states in the country to get an abortion, is calling the state senate back Monday for another 30-day special session to try passing the bill.

The measure would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require abortion clinics to match the requirements of surgical centers. Critics of the legislation say it could force the closure of all but five of the state’s 42 abortion clinics.

“I just refuse to say I believe it will happen. I’m an eternal optimist,” Davis said. “I believe in the power of democracy and I’m going to fight with every fiber I have to keep it from passing.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rand Paul's Near 13-Hour Filibuster Receives Mixed Reviews

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid praised Sen. Rand Paul’s stamina and conviction after his nearly 13-hour filibuster, but some of Paul’s Republican colleagues were less than impressed with the Kentucky senator’s marathon effort.

Reid said it was refreshing to see the Senate floor used as it should be -- for debate.  

The Nevada Democrat said, “Rand Paul had a right to talk.  This can be a Senate where ideas are debated in full public view and obstruction happens in full public view as well, or it can be a Senate where a couple senators, obstruction from behind closed doors without ever coming to the Senate floor.”

Reid joked, “What I've learned from my experiences with talking filibusters is this: to succeed you need strong convictions but also a strong bladder.  It's obvious Sen. Paul has both."

Paul staged the filibuster in an effort to get clarification from the Obama administration regarding its policy of the potential use of drones to fight terrorism on U.S. soil.  He expressed concern about the president having the authority to order a drone strike against an American on U.S. soil.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain called Paul’s filibuster a “political stunt.”

“If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously, he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms,” McCain said, borrowing quotes from a Wall Street Journal editorial on Thursday that similarly blasted the Kentucky Republican’s filibuster.

McCain acknowledged there needs to be more debate, discussion and legislation about enemy combatants and drones, but said the imagery drawn up by Paul’s filibuster was a “stretch of the imagination,” that is not helpful to the overall conversation.

McCain said he thought it was a “disservice to a lot Americans” to make them think that they are somehow in danger from their government.  “They're not,” he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said the question Paul was asking was so ridiculous it didn’t even deserve an answer.  

The South Carolina Republican said, “This president is not going to use a drone against a noncombatant sitting in a cafe anywhere in the United States, nor will future presidents, because if they do, they will have committed an act of murder.”

Graham stood on the Senate floor Thursday and held up an oversized poster to drive his point home.  The sign read: “Number of Americans Killed in the US: By al-Qaeda: 2,958, By Drones: 0.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he thought Paul’s filibuster was “heartfelt and important.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rand Paul Ends Nearly 13-Hour Filibuster Against John Brennan

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- At 12:39 a.m. Eastern time Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul ended his filibuster blocking John Brennan's nomination to head the CIA in protest of the Obama administration’s policy that allows the potential use of drones to fight terrorism on U.S. soil.

Paul yielded the floor just shy of 13 hours.  The late Sen. Strom Thurmond holds the record for a filibuster.  The South Carolina Republican filibustered the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

The most recent talking filibuster came from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who spent some eight hours filibustering a tax bill in 2010.

As he yielded the floor, Paul told his Senate colleagues, “I would go for another 12 hours and try to break Strom Thurmond's record, but I have learned there are limits and I have to go take care of one of those right now.”

The Kentucky Republican expressed hope that the administration would address the issue of drones on Thursday and clarify that it won't target American citizens in the U.S.

The Capitol Hill drama began late Wednesday morning when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to push the chamber toward a final vote on Brennan's nomination, but was blocked when Paul took the Senate floor at 11:47 a.m. in a filibuster.  Brennan had received approval from the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday in a 12-3 vote.

It was an unusual tactic in a Senate that no longer relies on traditional filibusters, in which a single senator ties up the Senate floor by speaking for hours on end.

The Kentucky Republican declared, “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

Paul continued, “That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Ky., is an abomination.  It is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country.”

The senator summed up his reason for the filibuster by saying, “I'm not asking any questions about the president's motives.  I don't question his motives.  I, frankly, don't think he will be killing people in restaurants tonight or in their house tonight.”

He continued, “But this is about the rule of law.  It isn't so much about him.  It isn't so much about John Brennan.  It's about having rules so that someday if we do have the misfortune of electing someone you do not trust, electing someone who might kill innocent people or who might kill people that they disagree with politically or they might kill people who they disagree with religiously or might kill people of another ethnic group, we're protected.”

Earlier in the day, Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate panel that while the president has the legal authority to order a drone strike against an American on U.S. soil, under "extraordinary circumstances,” the government “has no intention to carry out any drone strikes in the United States.”  Holder added, “It's hard for me to imagine a situation in which that would occur.”

During his filibuster, Paul was seen munching on a candy bar, sipping water and drinking some hot tea.

As the filibuster entered its 12th hour, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared on the Senate floor and congratulated his fellow Kentuckian and said he'll oppose moving toward a vote on Brennan and that there should be more debate.  

It’s not clear if there will be enough votes to block Brennan if Democrats try to end the debate on Thursday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Brennan Confirmation Delayed by Rare Talking Filibuster

Jamie Rhodes/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With federal offices shut down due to snow and John Brennan poised to be confirmed as CIA Director, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, considered an outspoken libertarian, did plenty of speaking as he engaged in a traditional, and increasingly rare, talking filibuster on Wednesday.

In modern Washington, the threat of a filibuster has become enough to require an issue to get 60 votes of support instead of 51.

Paul didn’t have 40 votes to block Brennan's confirmation, but he wanted to make a point about the White House adviser who is seen as architect of the administration’s policy regarding unmanned drones used to kill suspected terrorists in foreign countries. A vote to make Brennan CIA Director could come as soon as Wednesday.

To Rand Paul, the Obama administration’s targeted killing program – the use of drones to bomb suspected terrorists in foreign lands – is an issue. His concern hit a new level on Monday when his office released a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder explaining that the administration feels it has the power, in an unlikely and hypothetical situation, to kill Americans on U.S. soil to avert an imminent terror attack.

"I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA," Paul declared at about 11:47 a.m. ET Wednesday. "I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court. That Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is an abomination. it is something that should not and cannot be tolerated in our country."

Paul said he doesn’t necessarily think President Obama will abuse the power to use domestic drones. However, he says, no president should have the power to kill Americans in the U.S. without a trial by jury.

Here is an excerpt from Paul's filibuster:

"When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding and unequivocal, 'no.' The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that. The president says, I haven’t killed anyone yet. He goes on to say, and I have no intention of killing Americans. But I might. Is that enough? Are we satisfied by that? Are we so complacent with our rights that we would allow a president to say he might kill Americans? But he will judge the circumstances, he will be the sole arbiter, he will be the sole decider, he will be the executioner in chief if he sees fit. Now, some would say he would never do this. Many people give the president the — you know, they give him consideration, they say he’s a good man. I’m not arguing he’s not. What I’m arguing is that the law is there and set in place for the day when angels don’t rule government."

In recent years, a filibuster has been accepted as any time the minority party blocks something that could be passed by the majority. Senators agreed earlier this year to a series of rule changes that would cut down on the time it takes to move through these procedural roadblocks while preserving the minority’s right to object.

Paul is certainly in the minority on the issue of drones and targeted killing. An ABC News/Washington Post poll in February of 2012 found that 83 percent of Americans support the program. Paul believes that the program is so shrouded in secrecy that people don’t know enough about it. Drawing attention to that issue is a stated goal of his filibuster Wednesday.

This traditional form of filibuster, however, is doomed to fail. The human body can only go on so long. Paul promised to talk until he couldn't talk any more, but admitted, "Ultimately I will not win; there are not enough votes."

After more than three hours of talking, Paul was relieved by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. Lee, along with Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, gave Paul a break during the fourth hour of the largely symbolic debate.

The most recent talking filibuster came from U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, who spent some eight hours filibustering a tax bill in 2010.

The record for longest talking filibuster goes to former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond. Thurmond, who died in 2003, filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

It is not clear if Paul’s filibuster will last that long. Fox News host Lou Dobbs tweeted just before 2 p.m. ET, that Paul would be joining him on his show, which starts at 7 p.m. ET.

Considering the bipartisan support for Brennan's nomination, there is little doubt that he will ultimately be confirmed.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio



Planned Parenthood Cuts Draw Filibuster Threat from Senate Dems 

plannedparenthood dot org(WASHINGTON) -- The debate over policy riders -- amendments to the budget bill that impose significant changes to government priorities -- may force a shutdown, even if both sides agree on a final number of overall cuts.

Senate Democrats Thursday reiterated a pledge to filibuster any budget deal that includes a rider eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood.

“The dangerous, ideological cuts that passed through the House are never, never, never going to pass the Senate,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told a cheering crowd of Planned Parenthood supporters dressed in pink at a rally outside the capitol.

“Forty-one Senators signed a letter opposing cuts to Planned Parenthood… We got it in writing! That’s why elections have consequences,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who has spearheaded the coalition of 39 Senate Democrats and independents Sanders and Lieberman. 

Three Republican senators -- Murkowski, Collins and Brown -- have also said the Planned Parenthood rider, which guts $363 million in family planning grants, goes too far.

“We’re going to win this battle, easily,” said New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.

But many Republicans have signaled they’re not willing to compromise on the riders, some of which would block EPA efforts to regulate greenhouse gases, defund the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and gut the health care reform law.

One rider prohibits funds for new TSA employees; another would zero out subsidies for PBS and NPR. Some riders even mandate foreign policy objectives, blocking NASA from collaborating with China and banning foreign aid to Saudi Arabia.

"A bill without riders will not be passing the House," a senior House Republican aide close to the negotiations told ABC News. "And fewer riders would mean more cuts," he added, when asked if Republicans would be willing to bargain on some of the more controversial items.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Filibuster Reform Fight Unfolds in Senate

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With the Democrats’ majority in the Senate Wednesday dwindling from 58 seats to 53 as the 112th Congress kicked off, they wasted no time in embarking on an effort to change Senate rules to make it harder for the minority party to filibuster legislation.

“The United States Senate must solve problems, not create them,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a speech on the chamber’s floor.

“No one can deny that the filibuster has been used for purely political reasons, reasons far beyond those for which this protection was invented and intended.”

Reid, noting that the last session of Congress saw nearly as many filibusters as the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and half the 1970s combined, said the filibuster has been “used and abused gratuitously.”

“Many of these recent filibusters were terribly unproductive,” said Reid, citing that many bills that broke through the Senate’s 60-vote threshold ultimately passed overwhelmingly and sometimes unanimously.

Leading the push for filibuster reform is Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Harkin wants to amend Senate rules to allow a decreasing majority of senators to end debate on a bill.

As it stands now, Rule XXII requires that three-fifths of the chamber -- in other words, 60 members -- must back a bill in order to end debate and move to a final vote, so a group of minority senators can effectively stop a bill by voting against it and preventing it from passing the 60-vote hurdle, a move known as a modern-day filibuster.

Under Harkin’s proposal, if a bill does not get 60 votes to end debate, another vote could take place two days later, requiring 57 votes. If the bill still failed to get past that vote, then a third vote needing 54 votes could take place after two more days. Finally, a fourth vote, with only 51 votes needed, would take place after another two-day wait.

“275 filibusters in four years is not just a cold statistic. It represents the minority blocking measures sometimes -- not all the time -- but sometimes that enjoy broad support among the American people. In the last Congress, the filibuster was used to kill many bills that enjoyed majority and often bipartisan support,” Harkin said.

“This should not be a partisan issue,” Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said. “We know both sides have abused the rules. Now is the time to work together to fix them.”

But GOP leaders show no signs of going along with the Democrats’ efforts. The Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell Wednesday denounced the filibuster reform plans as “a bad idea.”

The Senate’s fight over filibuster reform is not set to take center stage until later this month, since lawmakers are set to recess later this week until Jan. 24. At that time, Reid may have figured out a way to work out a deal on reform that is palatable to Republicans -- or he may have decided to try to pass the reforms with a simple majority vote using the so-called “Constitutional option.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Senate Majority Rules? Senator Wants Showdown on Filibuster Reform

Photo Courtesy - Tom Udall [dot] Senate [dot] gov(NEW YORK) -- Their majority dwindling, some Senate Democrats are planning a showdown on the first day of the new Congress over limiting Republicans' ability to hold up legislation through filibusters.

"We don't want to give the minority the ability to block the majority from governing," Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, a leading proponent of filibuster reform, told ABC News.

According to Udall, momentum is building behind his effort to amend Senate Rule XXII, which allows 3/5ths of the Senate -- or 60 members -- to invoke "cloture" and end debate.  Failure to clear that 60-vote hurdle leaves a bill on the table, effectively killing it, and is commonly referred to as a modern "filibuster."

Udall proposes that senators who wish to hold up a piece of legislation be required to engage in a "talking filibuster," in which they would continuously speak on the floor, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"-style, rather than simply using a failed cloture vote to kill a bill.

Udall also wants to eliminate so-called "anonymous holds" that allow any senator to issue a silent objection, freezing a bill or nomination.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Dem Vows Filibuster of Obama Tax Deal

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The divide between Senate Democrats and Republicans on the tax cut compromise was crystal clear listening to leaders of both parties describe the deal Tuesday.

The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, said, “I think the vast majority of the members of the Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate feel that this is a step in the right direction, an important step to take for the American people, and I think the vast majority of my members will be supporting it.”

“The agreement,” he stated confidently, “is essentially final.”

Not so fast, responded Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid minutes later.

“This is only a framework. It's up to the Congress to pass it. Some in my caucus still have concerns about this proposal,” he warned. 

Reid was speaking to reporters after a Democratic caucus lunch that featured a visit by Vice President Biden to try to drum up support for the deal. Biden met with senators for about an hour. Reid said Senate Democrats will hold another meeting Wednesday to continue working on the issue. The Senate is expected to act on the tax deal before the House does, but nothing is set in stone and no votes are likely to take place on it until next week.

Even though Senate Democrats have voiced unhappiness with the deal, only Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has vowed to filibuster it. “I will do everything in my power to stand up for the American middle class and defeat this agreement,” Sanders said in a statement.

But thus far most Senate Democrats have criticized the plan, while not going so far as to commit to opposing it. A few such as Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., have said they will support the plan. And Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., predicted to reporters Tuesday that most Senate Democrats will ultimately vote in favor of the deal. The real roadblock to passage, Congressional aides say, will be House Democrats.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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