Can Dems Bust the Filibuster?

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Two Democratic Senators are complaining about the filibuster. That’s nothing new. As the use of the filibuster (a 60-vote requirement to end debate on a subject) to block legislation and presidential nominees has increased, the complaints about it (usually from senators in the majority) have intensified. This time, though, they’re going to try to do something about it. Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) have introduced a bill that would reform Senate rules to slowly reduce the number of votes needed to pass a bill. Steve Benen explains:

If approved, the measure would not do away with extended debate altogether. Harkin proposes a new procedural model: the first go-around, the minority could demand a 60-vote majority, as is the case now. But if 60 votes aren’t there to end debate, a week or so later, 57 votes could bring the bill to the floor for a vote. If 57 votes aren’t there, it drops again and again, and after a month or so, a bare majority could approve cloture.

There are a bunch of problems with this. First of all, it won’t work. You need 67 votes to change Senate rules midstream. That’s not going to happen. The best bet for people who want to do away with the filibuster is to change the rules after an election or to set a time in future when the filibuster would be eliminated by law so that no one will know which party will benefit. But the other problem with Harkin’s proposal is that while it reduces the number of votes needed to pass something, it doesn’t do much to speed up the Senate. The majority will be willing to wait for the time it needs on big legislation, but what about the little stuff, like appointments? If the minority filibustered every appointment, and it took a month to get each one to a vote, you’d still be left with a lot of job openings in the government. So while I appreciate the effort, this isn’t enough. The filibuster is an incredibly undemocratic aspect of an already undemocratic body. It should be swept away entirely, not simply weakened.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

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