Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Will the Derby Derail The Filibuster?

Ezra Klein thinks it might:
Word is that the Democrats might make the Republicans actually filibuster FinReg tonight. That is to say, stand on the floor and talk and talk and talk. And if the Democrats are serious about forcing the Republicans to really filibuster the bill, this is the right week for it: The Kentucky Derby starts Friday, and Kentucky's senior senator, Mitch McConnell, would surely prefer to attend. Given that his members are already talking about breaking ranks, McConnell may find himself eager to get this kabuki dance over with a little bit early.
The problem with this logic is that while it might look bad for McConnell to be cavorting with the rich and famous in Louisville on the First Saturday of May while Republicans back in Washington continue to block the banking bill, his vote isn't needed: cloture votes require 3/5 of all Senators to vote yes, regardless of how many vote no.  Now, given that (as Klein points out) a lot of the rank-and-file Senators appear to be less than enthusiastic about this particular filibuster, perhaps McConnell going off to play might be enough to break GOP unanimity, especially if Reid held the Senate in over the weekend (yes, other GOP Senators could play hooky too, but pols tend to be very careful about the "attendance" records -- they don't like to miss recorded votes).  I also don't see what the point would be of making the Republicans do the talking; a better idea, it seems to me, would be to allow the Democrats to use floor time, but to schedule cloture votes at odd hours and on the weekend. 

So McConnell won't have to choose between the Derby and the filibuster...unless the other Republicans make him stick around.  Whether that's the case or not, I don't know.

By the way, a little horse race nitpicking: the Kentucky Derby, of course, is a single race and takes place on Saturday.  There are Derby weekend festivities on Friday, with the big race on that card the Kentucky Oaks for three year old fillies, but one would not say that the "Derby starts Friday." 

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