Posted by: Jeff | April 28, 2010

The Republicans’ Weird Filibuster

The Republicans’ filibuster of the vote to bring financial regulation to the Senate floor appears to have just ended. Since this wasn’t a filibuster of an actual bill, but merely the procedural decision to bring the bill up for debate and amendments, what were the Republicans up to? Jonathan Chait thinks their behavior has been utterly bizarre, since everyone seems to acknowledge they never had the political clout to maintain the filibuster for more than a very limited period.

Best I can figure, they wanted more time to continue negotiating with Dodd behind closed doors. Keeping the bill off the Senate floor doesn’t mean the bill doesn’t continue to get worked on. It just means it gets worked on out of the light of day. Which I don’t really object to, per se. I think the health care debate brought up the point that, in American politics, transparency and public debate can hamstring efforts at real compromise and progress more often than encourage them. Secrecy is an essential component to getting things done in the legislative process.

And the Republicans do claim to have gotten some concessions out of the Democrats from the extra negotiations that went down during the filibuster. (Some of these changes actually seem worthwhile, others much less so.) None of the concessions strike me as that big or remarkable, however, though I guess the Republicans thought they were worth the political costs of publicly filibustering something as popular as reform of the financial sector.

And while Republicans may have some luck blocking Democratic amendments to the bill now that it’s headed to the Senate floor for open debate, it’s going to be very hard for them to muster the votes for their own amendments. So I guess they figure they’ve maximized whatever ground they could gain beforehand.

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