Lucy promised; she swore. Don’t worry, Charlie Brown, I’m not going to pull the football away from you. Not like all of the other times I’ve done it before.
You and I only had to read a few strips to know Lucy was pulling that football away. Charlie Brown never figured it out. It’s a little predictable and discouraging to find out Harry Reid’s still in the Charlie Brown camp.
The filibuster, which isn’t in the Constitution, requires 60 votes to end Senate debate and move on to a vote. Lyndon Johnson was Senate Majority leader for six years, and he faced one filibuster. Harry Reid’s been Senate Majority Leader for six years, and it’s been done 370 times.
It’s done not through the talking filibuster, where a senator speaks in opposition like Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” but with a procedural hold by one senator or a cloture vote that says 60 senators have to agree to end debate or the entire legislation dies.
There’s a judicial backlog because two-thirds of Barack Obama’s district judge nominees have been filibustered. The cloture vote was used 58 times between 1917 and 1970 and 250 times during Obama’s first term.
In 2011, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., led an effort at filibuster reform that never got far. A few months later, frustrated with the mounting filibusters, Reid said he should have listened to Udall and other co-sponsors.
“They were right,” Reid said. “The rest of us were wrong — or most of us now anyway. What a shame.”
So 2013 came around, and a second chance was available. Reid was given Udall’s proposal again. But Reid talked with the Republicans, and decided a “gentleman’s agreement” that didn’t go as far as Udall’s proposal was the best approach. They’ll let us kick the football this time, I swear.
The lesson that should be learned is that gentleman’s agreements only work when everybody involved agrees to be a gentleman.
This week, Lucy is being played by Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who plans on using an indefinite hold to keep Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary from even coming to a vote.
“If it took a filibuster,” Inhofe told Fox News, “I’d do it that way.”
Lucky for him it doesn’t take a filibuster. Had Udall’s proposal been accepted, Inhofe would actually have to go up, Jimmy Stewart style, and talk for hours on end for what he believes in. But he doesn’t have to filibuster; he only has to break a gentleman’s agreement and use a technicality to singlehandedly hold up Senate business.
There was a time when the Senate worked for the majority, where one senator objecting to something simply meant the item in question passed 99-1.
I’m pretty sure 2011 could have been that time. So could 2013. But Reid’s still too busy trying to kick a football.
What a shame.
Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by email: