Sunday, April 10, 2005

Byrd and the filibuster

Dana Milbank lays out the Republican's new talking points on the filibuster in todays WaPo. Republicans will be saying everywhere that Byrd:

• Originated a proposal in 1975 to reduce the supermajority from two-thirds to three-fifths.

• Broke a filibuster in 1977 with a simple majority vote.

• Threatened in 1979 to change Senate rules to break a filibuster, asserting that "this Congress is not obliged to be bound by the dead hand of the past" and that "rules have been changed from time to time."

• Made other parliamentary maneuvers in 1980 and 1987 to stifle debate.

This is why you'll here the nuclear option referred to as the "Byrd option" on today's talk shows, if it comes up.

Byrd, however, reminds us (in the same article):

• That his 1975 action was to prevent the Senate from switching to a simple majority vote.

• In the 1977 case, the Senate had already voted 77 to 17 to cut off debate when senators attempted a "post-cloture" filibuster.

• In the 1979 case, also about "post-cloture" filibusters, he was supported by Senate Republican leader Howard Baker (Tenn.).

• That his actions in 1980 and 1987 "did not contravene any precedent or standing rule" and "ensured that Senate procedure would conform more closely" to the rules.

Everyone with the time to do so should be researching these incidents carefully and preparing for this fight.


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