Kevin Drum explains the senate two-way!

FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2013

Was that a filibuster we saw, or were they just happy to be there: Was that a filibuster of gun bill proposals we saw in the senate this week?

Before we read yesterday’s major newspapers, we thought we knew. After we read the Post and the Times, we were no longer sure.

For background, see yesterday's post.

Was that a filibuster we saw? We asked, and Kevin Drum answered. This is what he said:
DRUM (4/18/13): Here's the answer: over the past few years, as the use of the filibuster has become routine, it's become common to speed things up a bit by adopting unanimous consent agreements under which both sides agree that a piece of legislation will require 60 votes to pass but won't require all the usual procedural hurdles of an actual filibuster. This is often convenient for both parties.

That's what happened in this case. The party leaders negotiated a unanimous consent agreement which specified that 60 votes were required to proceed to debate on Manchin-Toomey. It didn't get those 60 votes, so it failed.
Based on what we read in the Times, it seems to us that Drum left something out:

According to the Times, it wasn’t just Manchin-Toomey that had to get 60 votes. Under the “agreement between both parties” (redundancy alert!), highly undesirable Republican amendments also had to get 60 votes.

One of Drum’s commenters noted this part of the deal:
COMMENTER (4/18/13): OK, suppose there had been no 60 vote threshold, and amendments and the bill were only subject to a 51 vote majority. The watered down Manchin-Toomey compromise would have passed with 54 votes, but Cornyn's national concealed carry amendment would have passed with 57 votes. Democrats would either have to kill their own bill, or pass a law authorizing concealed carry permits nationwide. A person could carry a concealed handgun in Times Square, and the police couldn't do anything about it if he had a permit that was valid in Texas.

The NRA would have endorsed that bill.
That seems to jibe with the way the Times reported it. According to the Times report, this was a two-way deal. In effect, each party got to “filibuster” the other party’s proposals.

The GOP “filibustered” the Dems. But the Dems “filibustered” them back.

The Times report was very poorly written. As he continues, Drum reviews the various ways this agreement could have been described in news reports. We don't think the task is as hard as he suggests, but that’s neither here nor there.

That said, no one in the Washington Post even tried to explain why 60 votes were required on this high-profile senate vote. The New York Times did try to explain, but it did so very unclearly.

Does anything ever get explained? How much does anyone care?


  1. Well, I knew that the Dems were willing to scuttle mandatory background checks on the rather ironic horror that someone with a vaunted background check might be able carry a concealed weapon in Boson.

    I read it in a column in my local paper.

  2. FWIW NPR didn't bother to explain, either. Filibuster is the new F word in mainstream journalism.

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