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State of the Union Address - Drinking Game

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Ohh, and it just so happened this showed up today in the news, how convenient for me as ANOTHER rebuttal to chevy...

The Rise Of Cloture: How GOP Filibuster Threats Have Changed The Senate


These are the numbers on cloture over the last several decades. Often, but not always, cloture is employed by senate majority leaders in response to filibuster threats from the minority. Cloture isn't always necessarily correlated with filibusters, but broadly speaking, the two often go hand in hand. What's particularly striking here is the GOP's use of filibuster threats, and the correlated increase in Democratic cloture motions. Take, for instance, the huge spike in cloture motions filed from the Republican-led 109th Congress in 2005-2006 to the Democratic-majority 110th in 2007-2008.

"It is the most striking in history," American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norm Ornstein told TPM.

What happened, Ornstein says, is that during the last two years of President George W. Bush's second term, Republicans offered "no initiatives to speak of."

The initiatives were coming from the Democrats, and the Republicans wanted to kill 'em, or slow things down.

Republican filibuster threats, Ornstein said, were "like throwing molasses in the road."

Of course, not all cloture motions are direct responses to explicit filibuster threats. Sometimes majority leaders use cloture filings to do preliminary headcounts and try to avoid wasted time on legislation that can't muster enough votes.

Still, Ornstein largely attributes the stark rise in cloture motions in the 110th Congress to Republican delay and obstruction tactics.

"You're not gonna see that sharp jump up just because you're tracking heads," he said.

This is a very real change in the culture of the Senate.

Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor at George Washington University, told us that it's not just Republicans who employ delaying and obstructionist tactics that the Democratic majority tries to overcome with cloture.

"Both Democratic and Republican minorities have been willing to exploit the rules pretty aggressively," she said, adding that "it certainly seems that Republicans are more aggressive with it."

Filibusters in the Senate require a 60-senator cloture vote to overcome -- before the mid-1970s, cloture required a 67-senator cloture vote.

For decades, beginning with the introduction of cloture as a formal procedure more than 90 years ago, it was rare for senate majority leaders to file for cloture. As Senate historian Donald A. Ritchie told us Monday, it was just too tough to secure 67 votes -- and thus very difficult to force the end of filibusters through cloture. From 1919 to 1970, cloture was never filed for more than seven times in a two-year Congress. You can see the Senate's breakdown of the numbers here.

Things heated up about 35 years ago, when the Senate voted to change its cloture rules, lowering the filibuster-ending requirement from 67 votes to 60.

At the same time, the Senate was becoming more partisan than it had ever been, Ritchie said. Before the cloture change, strict party-line votes were relatively rare. But in the years that followed, the ideological spectrum of each party began to shrink, leading up to today, when, as Ritchie put it, "we have much more party discipline right now than we've ever had."

With senators closely toeing the party line in a way that Ritchie said they rarely had before, senate majority leaders of both parties have in recent decades begun filing for cloture more and more frequently -- largely as a way to gauge whether they have 60 votes for a bill before they expend time and effort on it on the Senate floor.

While Ritchie went to great pains in our discussion Monday to paint the rise of cloture as a bipartisan phenomenon, it's not entirely clear that's true. For instance, the two largest spikes in cloture filings in the last 20 years seem to be motivated, at least in part, by Republican obstructionism.

When Republicans were a Senate minority in 1991-1992, there were 59 cloture filings. When President Clinton took office, with Republicans remaining the minority in the Senate, that number shot up to 80 in 1993-1994.

When Democrats reclaimed the Senate majority in the 2006 midterm elections, cloture filings shot up from 68 in 2005-2006 to a record 139 in 2007-2008.

It's important to note that there's not a direct and complete correlation between cloture and filibusters.

"We don't know, always, whether these jumps in cloture are because there's more obstruction or because majority leaders need it to lend some degree of predictability to the floor," Binder said. "In reality, it's probably a bit of both."

But clearly, Binder said, "the behavior of the minority is largely responsible for what the majority is doing here."

So while it isn't the whole picture, the rise of party-line filibuster threats has at least contributed to the increasing frequency with which majority leaders have employed cloture.

"Nothing in the Senate changed," Ritchie said. "It's just that the people that voters elected have changed."

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^ He speaks the truth.

I've said it before..the problem with the current system is that Doctors make money when you're sick..not by keeping you healthy. Drug Reps?? Big problem. Dr's pushing samples of drugs down your throat like a drug dealer giving you the first hit for free. If the system paid based on keeping you healthy and out of the dr's office, things would change.

Yup...the doc's office asks what kind of insurance you have so they know how much to charge for their services. The system is broken...and I don't think any of the current bills totally fixes it. I haven't spent a lot of time analyzing them, so I could be wrong.

I'll tell you what though..working for a major healthcare provider in Ohio...these companies will get their money somehow. If these Bills affect their bottom line, IF, they will find other ways to make up for it. Just like the credit card companies are doing now, to get around the new laws just passed regarding late fees, changing minimum payment dates, interest rates, etc.

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More Republican obstructionism for earmarks/special interests


Report: Shelby Blocks All Obama Nominations In The Senate Over AL Earmarks

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has put an extraordinary "blanket hold" on at least 70 nominations President Obama has sent to the Senate, according to multiple reports this evening. The hold means no nominations can move forward unless Senate Democrats can secure a 60-member cloture vote to break it, or until Shelby lifts the hold. "While holds are frequent," CongressDaily's Dan Friedman and Megan Scully report (sub. req.), "Senate aides said a blanket hold represents a far more aggressive use of the power than is normal."

The Mobile Press-Register picked up the story early this afternoon. The paper confirmed Reid's account of the hold, and reported that a Shelby spokesperson "did not immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking confirmation of the senator's action or his reason for doing so."

Shelby has been tight-lipped about the holds, offering only an unnamed spokesperson to reporters today to explain them. Aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid broke the news of the blanket hold this afternoon. Reid aides told CongressDaily the hold extends to "all executive nominations on the Senate calendar."

According to the report, Shelby is holding Obama's nominees hostage until a pair of lucrative programs that would send billions in taxpayer dollars to his home state get back on track. The two programs Shelby wants to move forward or else:

- A $40 billion contract to build air-to-air refueling tankers. From CongressDaily: "Northrop/EADS team would build the planes in Mobile, Ala., but has threatened to pull out of the competition unless the Air Force makes changes to a draft request for proposals." Federal Times offers more details on the tanker deal, and also confirms its connection to the hold.

- An improvised explosive device testing lab for the FBI. From CongressDaily: "[shelby] is frustrated that the Obama administration won't build" the center, which Shelby earmarked $45 million for in 2008. The center is due to be based "at the Army's Redstone Arsenal."

Though a Shelby spokesperson would not confirm that these programs were behind the blanket hold, the Senator expressed his frustration about the progress on both through a spokesperson to both CongressDaily and the Federal Times.

A San Diego State University professor and Congressional expert told the Mobile paper "he knew of no previous use of a blanket hold" in recent history.

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America Is Not Yet Lost



We’ve always known that America’s reign as the world’s greatest nation would eventually end. But most of us imagined that our downfall, when it came, would be something grand and tragic.

What we’re getting instead is less a tragedy than a deadly farce. Instead of fraying under the strain of imperial overstretch, we’re paralyzed by procedure. Instead of re-enacting the decline and fall of Rome, we’re re-enacting the dissolution of 18th-century Poland.

A brief history lesson: In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Polish legislature, the Sejm, operated on the unanimity principle: any member could nullify legislation by shouting “I do not allow!” This made the nation largely ungovernable, and neighboring regimes began hacking off pieces of its territory. By 1795 Poland had disappeared, not to re-emerge for more than a century.

Today, the U.S. Senate seems determined to make the Sejm look good by comparison.

Last week, after nine months, the Senate finally approved Martha Johnson to head the General Services Administration, which runs government buildings and purchases supplies. It’s an essentially nonpolitical position, and nobody questioned Ms. Johnson’s qualifications: she was approved by a vote of 94 to 2. But Senator Christopher Bond, Republican of Missouri, had put a “hold” on her appointment to pressure the government into approving a building project in Kansas City.

This dubious achievement may have inspired Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama. In any case, Mr. Shelby has now placed a hold on all outstanding Obama administration nominations — about 70 high-level government positions — until his state gets a tanker contract and a counterterrorism center.

What gives individual senators this kind of power? Much of the Senate’s business relies on unanimous consent: it’s difficult to get anything done unless everyone agrees on procedure. And a tradition has grown up under which senators, in return for not gumming up everything, get the right to block nominees they don’t like.

In the past, holds were used sparingly. That’s because, as a Congressional Research Service report on the practice says, the Senate used to be ruled by “traditions of comity, courtesy, reciprocity, and accommodation.” But that was then. Rules that used to be workable have become crippling now that one of the nation’s major political parties has descended into nihilism, seeing no harm — in fact, political dividends — in making the nation ungovernable.

How bad is it? It’s so bad that I miss Newt Gingrich.

Readers may recall that in 1995 Mr. Gingrich, then speaker of the House, cut off the federal government’s funding and forced a temporary government shutdown. It was ugly and extreme, but at least Mr. Gingrich had specific demands: he wanted Bill Clinton to agree to sharp cuts in Medicare.

Today, by contrast, the Republican leaders refuse to offer any specific proposals. They inveigh against the deficit — and last month their senators voted in lockstep against any increase in the federal debt limit, a move that would have precipitated another government shutdown if Democrats hadn’t had 60 votes. But they also denounce anything that might actually reduce the deficit, including, ironically, any effort to spend Medicare funds more wisely.

And with the national G.O.P. having abdicated any responsibility for making things work, it’s only natural that individual senators should feel free to take the nation hostage until they get their pet projects funded.

The truth is that given the state of American politics, the way the Senate works is no longer consistent with a functioning government. Senators themselves should recognize this fact and push through changes in those rules, including eliminating or at least limiting the filibuster. This is something they could and should do, by majority vote, on the first day of the next Senate session.

Don’t hold your breath. As it is, Democrats don’t even seem able to score political points by highlighting their opponents’ obstructionism.

It should be a simple message (and it should have been the central message in Massachusetts): a vote for a Republican, no matter what you think of him as a person, is a vote for paralysis. But by now, we know how the Obama administration deals with those who would destroy it: it goes straight for the capillaries. Sure enough, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, accused Mr. Shelby of “silliness.” Yep, that will really resonate with voters.

After the dissolution of Poland, a Polish officer serving under Napoleon penned a song that eventually — after the country’s post-World War I resurrection — became the country’s national anthem. It begins, “Poland is not yet lost.”

Well, America is not yet lost. But the Senate is working on it.

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Obstructionism is a good thing if it can keep the government from causing harm. You seem to have an issue with it but the voters of Massachusetts apparently like it, at least the independents and republicans. Wouldn't you have liked the democrats to have obstructed that war in Iraq? Oh I forgot they were lied to and tricked into it the poor stupid spineless rubes. I really like that the republicans are blocking this proposed healthcare shit. If the proposed changes to healthcare were good for us everyone would be for it. When the folks in Washington figure that out then maybe they can get around to changing things.

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