In an interview with the Young Turks on Friday, Senator Kent Conrad indicated that there was "growing consensus" in the Democratic Senate caucus to actually make Republicans stand in the well of the Senate and filibuster popular Democratic legislation.
Cenk: Exactly, that's a perfect situation. We're actually going to make you physically filibuster it. Go ahead and give speeches for 24 hours a day. We're removing the rule that out of politeness and courtesy that we don't make you do that anymore. We're going to have you go and read the phone book, and tell us how much you're against stem cells or the minimum wage, or for rest for the troops.
Senator Kent 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.
Good. This is would be a welcome step and tactical change. No more simply allowing Republicans to defeat Democratic legislation just by holding a cloture vote. It is time to actually make Republicans carry out the filibusters they threaten when they vote "no" on cloture. If they want to use the threat of unlimited debate on issues like raising the minimum wage and providing mandatory time at home between deployments to Iraq for American troops, let's actually make them engage in unlimited, or at least nearly unlimited, debate on those subjects and see what the American people think.
Politically, there is no way we can lose by employing this tactic. Check out the complete list of Senate legislation that enjoyed majority support in the Senate, but which minority Republicans were able to successfully defeat via filibuster during the 110th Congress:
April 17, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007: an original bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2007 for the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, the Intelligence Community Management Account, and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System, and for other purposes.
June 11, No confidence vote on Alberto Gonzales: a joint resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales no longer holds the confidence of the Senate and of the American people.
June 26, Employee Free Choice Act of 2007: A bill to amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes.
I honestly do not know how this compares to the rate of Democratic filibusters against majority-supported legislation from 2003-2006, and I don't really care. The point of this post is not to argue that Senate Republicans in the minority have been more "obstructionist" than Senate Democrats were during their time in the minority. The point is, instead, to list the extremely popular legislation that Republicans have blocked, and to argue that Senate Democrats should have actually made them stand up in the well of the Senate and filibuster each one of these bills for multiple days. Make them actually filibuster raising the minimum wage for several days. Make them actually filibuster a vote of disapproval on the troop escalation for several days. Make them actually filibuster lower prescription drug prices for several days. Make them actually filibuster cleaner energy for several days. Make them actually filibuster increasing workers rights for several days. Make them actually filibuster mandatory time home between troop deployments for American soldiers in Iraq for several days. Make Senate Republicans tell the whole country, non-stop, for three or four days that they are opposed to each of these things. Make them stay in Washington over the weekend to do these things. Drive them to the point of physical exhaustion if they don't think American troops deserve any rest. Then, after long, sleepless nights of talking, watch them conduct interviews reporters afterwards to defend their actions. (Those should be fun to watch!) As Campaign for America's Future argues, make them do this to expose what they really stand for.
I am with Campaign for America's Future. If Republicans are going to block this legislation, make them pay a big price in the eyes of the American people for doing so. Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid, need to step up, because right now they are letting Republicans get away with blocking popular legislation basically for free. That is not acceptable. That is not leadership. It certainly is not a way to reinforce to the public what Republicans actually stand for. Can you image the political price Senate Republicans would have paid for spending four days and three nights filibustering Webb's amendment on troop deployments? That is the sort of thing that holds potentially catastrophic consequences on their image of years-talk about not supporting the troops! And that is exactly what Senate Democrats need to do.
If Kent Conrad it right, we are already close to seeing this tactic in action. So, let's do everything we can to push them over the edge. Help make Senate Democrats to their job by making Senate Republicans actually stand up and filibuster our most popular legislation. Sign the petition by Campaign for America's Future. More importantly, as always, call your Democratic Senators and tell them you want to see Republicans actually filibuster if they want to stop our popular legislation. Cloture votes are simply not enough. Make Republicans stand in the well of the Senate and give every fiber of their beings to support their unpopular causes.