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Senate Democrats: Change Filibuster Rules, Make Them Talk

Republicans filibustered the extension of unemployment benefits on the Senate floor Tuesday. Why? Because they can get away with it. Look at how the press reported what happened.
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Republicans filibustered the extension of unemployment benefits on the Senate floor Tuesday. Why? Because they can get away with it. Look at how the press reported what happened.

If the public doesn't know that filibusters are occurring, how can democracy hold Republicans accountable for doing it? Instead they hear from the corporate media that the bill is "stalled," "the Senate failed" or "the Senate deadlocks" due to "finger-pointing" or "partisan squabbling." What message does the public get from that? Probably that they shouldn't bother to vote.

The New York Times,"Unemployment Extension Is Stalled, With 2 Proposals Defeated in the Senate": "Unemployment benefits for 1.3 million of the long-term unemployed -- and millions more in the future -- were imperiled on Tuesday after Senate efforts to reach accord on legislation to revive them collapsed in partisan finger-pointing."

The Washington Post, "Unemployment benefits won't be extended until at least late January as Senate deadlocks": "Negotiations to extend emergency benefits for the long-term jobless deadlocked in the Senate on Tuesday. That leaves more than 1.3 million people without federal unemployment aid ..."

Politico, "Senate blocks jobless aid": "Both measures needed 60 votes to advance."

Associated Press, "Agreement Appears Elusive on Jobless Benefits Bill": "... the Senate blocked a pair of Democratic-drafted proposals from advancing..."

CNN, "Extending unemployment benefits stumbles in Senate": "... the failure of two procedural votes, leaving the fate of emergency government assistance to more than 1 million people in limbo."

CBS News, "Extension of unemployment benefits dead in Senate for now": "Two procedural votes on different variations on an extension failed..."

Reuters, "Effort to extend jobless benefits stalls in Senate": "Efforts to renew emergency federal jobless benefits for 1.5 million Americans stalled in the Senate on Tuesday when Democrats and Republicans rejected each other's proposals."

Washington Post column, "7 reasons why Congress's failure to extend unemployment insurance matters": "On Tuesday, the Senate failed to muster up the votes to pass an extension of unemployment insurance."

Democrats, This Is on YOU

Democrats, you have to deliver for the American people. That's your job. If you can't deliver for the people then you have to let the people know why not and what they need to do to fix things. If you allow this silent filibuster farce to continue, masked by the corporate media, you are failing the public and not delivering.

"For the first time, a majority of Americans now say they believe the troubles in our economy are more the result of the policies of the present than the policies of the past," Boehner said, according to prepared remarks.

House Speaker John Boehner is right. At some point this is on the Democrats.

Republicans are filibustering and obstructing, but that's just what they do. If a dangerous, infected beast is running around your town hurting people, that's just what dangerous infected beasts do. But if the local authorities don't do something about the dangerous, infected beast, that's on them.

The job of local authorities is to deliver for the public. The job of Democrats is to deliver for the American people. Democrats have to find a way to either stop this dangerous, infected beast or else let the public know that this dangerous, infected beast is filibustering and obstructing.

Letting Republicans filibuster and obstruct everything enables their economic sabotage. Democrats are complicit in this strategy of economic sabotage when they don't make it clear to the public that Senate Republicans are filibustering to keep the majority from getting its way and the House Republican leadership is refusing to allow votes, also to keep the majority from getting its way.

Make Them Talk

Sen. Bernie Sanders explains that Democrats should just end this ridiculous filibuster farce and pass the unemployment extension:

The public understands what a talking filibuster means. For example, the public saw Texas Sen. Ted Cruz filibuster the health care law. A talking filibuster is dramatic, rallies the public to one side or the other and lets democracy work its magic. This is how it gives the public the information to make decisions on who to hold accountable. A silent filibuster is a secret from the public, and just keeps things from getting done. The silent filibuster keeps the majority from delivering for the public, without letting the public know why the majority is not delivering.

Again, if the public doesn't know the Republicans are filibustering and obstructing things the people need, they can't hold the Republicans accountable for it. Change the Senate rules to make them talk if they want to filibuster legislation. And then start the drumbeat to stop obstruction in the House. Serve the public by letting the public know what is going on.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.