FILIBUSTER WATCH….Last week I mentioned that Republicans are basically filibustering everything they can get their hands on but aren’t paying a price for it because filibusters are no longer filibusters. Thanks to a gentleman’s agreement reached several decades ago, you no longer have to actually take to the Senate floor and talk until you drop. You just announce your intent to filibuster, the majority leader takes you at your word, and shortly thereafter schedules a cloture vote. No muss, no fuss. All you have to do is write a note and the bill in question suddenly requires 60 votes to pass, not 51. As a result, if the minority party feels like it, they can pretty easily force every bill to require 60 votes.

But this isn’t a law, and if the majority leader wants to require actual filibusters, he can do so. On Friday, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks asked Sen. Kent Conrad (D–ND) about this:

Uygur: Is it possible that you guys can get together and say, “Hey you know what, if you’re going to filibuster an incredibly popular bill, whether it’s stem cell, minimum wage, or perhaps something having to do with the Iraq war”….We’re actually going to make you physically filibuster it. Go ahead and give speeches for 24 hours a day….

Conrad: Yeah, I think there’s a growing consensus that we ought to do that….I think that we could do a better job making our points, and one part of that is to let the American people see just how obstructionist this Republican minority is being. The leader has had to file cloture now over 40 times already this year. And cloture, as you know, is a special procedure to stop debate, to stop filibusters, in order to reach conclusion on legislation. I had a Republican colleague tell me it is the Republican strategy to try to prevent any accomplishment of the Democratic Congress. That is set in their caucus openly and directly that they don’t intend to allow Democrats to have any legislative successes, and they intend to do it by repeated filibuster.

The downside to this, of course, is that a genuine filibuster shuts down the Senate and prevents it from considering other business. That’s what prompted the gentleman’s agreement in the first place. But if Republicans have decided to abuse this agreement by invoking it as a routine measure, maybe it’s time to let the American public know what they’re doing. And the way to do that is to make ’em haul out the cots and diapers and start filibustering bills the old school way. I suspect the public wouldn’t be amused.