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A temporary respite from the anti-democratic filibuster



Published: Fri, July 19, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

We’re happy to see an agreement reached in the U.S. Senate that allowed the long-overdue confirmation of Ohio’s Richard Cordray as chairman of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The minority party in the Senate has used the filibuster to block action, including the confirmation of presidential nominees, far too often in the last 40 years, but it has gotten progressively worse, and Republicans have made the filibuster standard operating procedure during the Barack Obama presidency.

In Cordray’s case, the threat of a filibuster was particularly noxious because even those who were blocking a vote couldn’t make an argument against Cordray based on his background or performance as interim chairman. Republicans, including Ohio’s Rob Portman, supported a filibuster because they wanted the law that created the CFPB rewritten. They were using the filibuster to block a presidential appointment as a way of getting legislation passed because they didn’t have the votes to amend the legislation.

It’s that kind of perversion of the democratic process that has given the filibuster a bad name.

A battle won, not the war

But no one should kid themselves that the most recent agreement is anything but a temporary fix that assures an up-or-down vote on a handful of President Obama’s nominees. It takes the “nuclear option” — that is a move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to replace the 60-vote margin needed to end a filibuster with a 51-vote margin through a parliamentary tactic — off the table for now. But Republicans involved in the compromise that ended the present stand-off made no future commitments and Reid specifically rejected a call by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that he promise never to go “nuclear.”

We will say today what we have said before. If there is going to be a filibuster in the Senate it should be of the old-fashioned kind, the kind demonstrated by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in March when he talked for 12 hours, 52 minutes about the dangers of deadly drone aircraft in domestic skies.

In the Texas Senate, Wendy Davis, a Democrat spoke for 11 hours, 39 minutes in opposition to restrictions majority Republicans were putting on abortion providers in her state.

A senator who demonstrates the courage of his or her convictions by standing, speaking and eschewing bathroom breaks for a half-day deserve credit. The late Sen. Strom Thurmond holds the U.S. Senate record of 24 hours, 18 minutes in his filibuster against civil rights legislation.

Let any senator who wants to filibuster follow their examples. The Senate rules should be changed to eliminate the cloture rule that gives senators all the power to gum up the works with a filibuster without exerting any of the effort.

Cordray takes up his job

With the minority obstruction of his appointment now a thing of the past, Cordray, Ohio’s former attorney general, can take up the work of director of the CFPB without any distractions.

He showed himself in Ohio to be a strong advocate for consumers and an opponent of the worst practices of the biggest banks.

Eliminating the filibuster that blocked his confirmation was not only a victory for democracy, but for all but a very few Americans.


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