FILIBUSTER WATCH….Apropos of my comment yesterday about filibusters becoming standard operating procedure in the Senate, Steve Benen points out that Republicans have just killed an amendment sponsored by James Webb and Chuck Hagel that would have standardized military rotations. It actually passed 56-41, but since you routinely need 60 votes to pass legislation in the Senate these days, it fell four votes short.
I think that one reason this hasn’t made as big an impression as it should is that the press has an odd habit these days of referring merely to “Congress” in stories about the fate of legislation. Now, granted, very few votes are purely party line. Still, if 80% of Republicans oppose something while 80% of Democrats favor it, and the measure fails, I think it would be fair to write a headline that says “Republicans Block Vote on X.” (And vice versa when Dems do it.) Instead, we usually get a headline that says merely “Congress Votes Down X.” This is a disservice to readers, who then have to wade through the story to find out what’s really going on.
(And even this doesn’t always help. I’m continually surprised at how many stories don’t include clear partisan vote breakdowns, even though partisan differences are at the core of the American legislative system. It’s really weird.)
However, at least on the “filibuster everything” front, the Washington Post has a piece today that gives us a bare glimpse of the issue before backing off without really explaining what’s going on:
Facing crumbling support for the war among their own members, Senate Republican leaders yesterday sought to block bipartisan efforts to force a change in the American military mission in Iraq.
But the GOP leadership’s use of a parliamentary tactic requiring at least 60 votes to pass any war legislation only encouraged the growing number of Republican dissenters to rally and seek new ways to force President Bush’s hand.
….Beyond the war of words are serious legislative efforts to force change — despite the 60-vote requirement that Republican leaders are banking on as a barrier.
It’s a start, I guess. The point of the story is merely that the 60-vote minimum is actually encouraging GOP defections, but at least it states the issue plainly. That’s more than most stories do.