Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No Bob Dole?

Quiz Time!  So, the Republicans are dropping their filibuster on the motion to proceed on the banking bill.  Was it because:

A. Mitch McConnell needed to get a bet down on Lookin At Lucky.
B. Those wimpy Dems finally threatened a "live" filibuster.
C. Uh...because the Republicans said they were only bluffing to being with.

Yes, the answer is in fact C: they never really had 41 solid votes to begin with. 

Now, why the GOP leaders decided to force a foolish filibuster anyway at this stage of the game, even though it wasn't going to succeed, is a pretty good mystery.  Remember, this isn't about whether they're going to filibuster passage of the bill; it's about the decision to filibuster against consideration of the bill.  I can think of three possibilities:

1.  It's part of a long-term strategy to waste Senate floor time, in order to reduce the capacity of the Senate to get anything done.  That does make some sense; eating up three days this week could, at least possibly, prevent some judicial nominee from being confirmed later this year.  On the other hand, the Democrats still have unused floor hours (Mondays, Fridays, nights, weekends), so they're not running up against any real limits yet.

2.  The Republicans are terrified of the talk show hosts and conservative bloggers, who are demanding maximal resistance to the dread socialist Kenyan Obama whether the resisance makes any sense or not.

3.  Mitch McConnell is actually an incompetent hack and has no idea what he's doing.

And the answer is...I don't know!  I'd like to think that it's a logical strategy (which implies answer #1), but we've seen this before (during Christmas week) when it was clear that delays were not affecting future Senate business.  If not that, I'd like to think that it's at least a rational response to political incentives, but I'm not convinced that Rush and Beck and all are really focused on the minutia of Senate procedure.  Maybe, maybe not. 

I am convinced that if their goal was either amending or defeating the banking bill, the Republicans are going about it badly.  I'm not actually concluding that answer #3 applies...but I'm really not sure that it doesn't. 


  1. How about 3a)?: McConnell is a one trick pony.

    Just as the R base loves all obstruction all the time (see? our side has balls), the D base loves Reid threatening to break out the cots (no, OURS are bigger).

    I guess what I'm saying is that Reid's move was over-determined. Filibuster-wise the thing to watch for is a sustained high-profile filibuster challenge. That might indicate Reid thinks he might have 50+ votes for a rule change the beginning of the next term.

  2. What boggles is the argument McConnell has been making: we're filibustering so that we can negotiate off the floor.
    Since when has a bill being on the floor stopped real, behind-the-scenes negotiations?

    No, methinks #2 is the culprit.

  3. Option 2 did make sense before Christmas. Given the passions involved regarding HCR, I can't really fault Republican senators for deciding that a full-on goal-line stand would bring them less grief than having to explain to their less rational supporters that, well, they could have forced another vote but it wouldn't have made any difference.

    That doesn't explain the current situation though. My theory, for what it's worth, is that the Republicans are convinced that they are going to win big in November, so they're running as far to the right as they can in order to claim the biggest possible conservative mandate. If you're going to win no matter what, there's no point in thinking small.

  4. Your options seem to be reasons they were filibustering, not why they've stopped. So what is the question, why they've dropped the filibuster? Or why they were filibustering in the first place?

    Answer to the second: Because they can, and all three of your answers satisfy the 'we can' mandate. Any Obama success is Republican enemy #1.

    Answer to why they dropped it?

    My best guess is twofold:
    first, Wall St. and bankers are hated even more than Senators, and they were totally looking sold out, not good for November sweepstakes.

    Second, the few moderate Republicans in the Senate, including my two senators, Snowe and Collins, couldn't go along with this foolishness when they're legacies as senators are on the line.

    (I'm hearing more and more, "I wish Snowe would run for president," around Maine. "I wish Collins would run," once in a while, too.)

  5. Uh ... yeah, my money's on #3. Having watched Mitch McConnell over the years I've concluded he's an incompetent hack.

  6. I believe that the 'bluff and delay' tactic was simply to give the appearance that they are actually calling the shots and controlling the schedule and issues..... They can boast to reporters that they held the D's feet to the fire and only consented after they had gotten the provisions they wanted. Truly, I think they are most terrified of having this debate in public. They would then reveal themselves as defenders of deregulation. This is an issue on which level heads may prevail more than they have recently.

  7. It's always about the same thing: base mobilization to help in the midterms.

    Once it became clear that just this once obstruction helped Dem turnout more than GOP turnout, they folded.

  8. Hmm. Given the similarities between the Dem and Rep versions of the bill, I think there may be another answer to this. The Republicans do not want to get out in front of reform because they know that if they do it will run them the hell over; its just too popular no matter what the incoherent teabaggers say about it or what the bankers themselves would like. At the same time, they figure that a financial reform bill stamped with an unblemished Democrat imprimatur in the public mind would be equally as devastating. So what I think is going on is this; the Republicans, instead of opposing reform on principal and getting beat over the head with it in November, are trying to play for time while wooing the banks and get their constructive involvement in the reform process into the public memory. I don't know how well they're doing that right now, but I think that might be their goal; to both use this issue to wedge away some institutional funding from the Dems, and to take the stance for November that the Republican Party was responsible for Financial reform.


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