…And rightly so. He wrote, after a vote to allow debate on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell failed to clear a 60 vote plurality: DADT didn’t fail. The Senate did:
The bill repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell didn’t fail: The Senate did. The bill got 57 votes, not 49. As Dylan Matthews pointed out, a procedural failsafe that’s theoretically meant to protect the rights of minorities was just used to restrict the rights of minorities — which is how it’s always been, of course.
The various players are excitedly blaming one another. Anonymous aides to Harry Reid are arguing that Susan Collins’s demands would’ve meant so much conservative obstruction that there wouldn’t have been time for a vote. Collins was just on the television saying that if Reid had only given her more time, the bill would’ve passed.
I don’t care who’s right. And nor should anyone else. The diffusion of responsibility that comes from deciding law through complex parliamentary gamesmanship rather than simple majority-rules votes is the problem. What happened today is that a majority of the Senate voted for a bill that the majority of Americans support. The bill did not pass. Neither Harry Reid nor Susan Collins are ultimately responsible for that. The rules of the Senate are.
Harry Reid has got to know that Klein is right. He also has to know that the only way he’ll have a legacy worth remembering is if he sees to it that the filibuster is reformed, and reformed dramatically. There’s a way to do it, and an absolute need.
Klein’s point that the filibuster has always been used by Senate minorities set on restricting the rights of society’s minorities is well taken and worth emphasizing. Until the last decade, that was almost the only purpose it had been used for, especially before final passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the realignment of political parties that it compelled. I’m sure some good filibuster examples exist, mostly of judicial appointments (Bernie Sanders eight hour speech against tax cuts for the wealthy wasn’t a filibuster). And I could see preserving the filibuster in cases of lifetime appointments to the federal bench. But for legislation and presidential appointments to executive agencies and the White House itself, allowing a minority to obstruct legislation forever, and to block the President from employing his chosen staff, is simply undemocratic and absurd.
It’s time to fix this flawed institution.