Letter to DiFi on filibuster reform

Just sent:

The Hon. Diane Feinstein
331 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
December 3, 2012

Dear Sen. Feinstein:

As a Democrat who has had the pleasure of voting for you three times
so far, I was very troubled to read that you were wavering on the
question of filibuster reform
. I hope that your views have been

Given the appalling behavior of Sen. McConnell since the election of
President Obama, and the indication that he intends to continue to
obstruct the public business at every turn, Sen. Reid is fully
justified in acting to rein in the power of an irresponsible minority.
Indeed, I would prefer a more radical step, with successive cloture
votes requiring diminishing super-majorities so that the third vote
would require only 51 votes.

I can imagine no more important issue confronting the Senate this
year. Were there ever to be a primary election in which one of the
candidates supported filibuster reform while the other opposed it,
that would almost certainly be the decisive issue with respect to my
vote, my voice, and my financial support.

Very truly yours,

Go thou, and do likewise, and encourage your friends to do the same. I’m prepared to bet that ten thousand physical letters (emails count for much less) would get her respectful attention. Voters mostly don’t care about procedural issues: let’s make it clear that some high-information, high-political-activity voters care terribly about this one.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

19 thoughts on “Letter to DiFi on filibuster reform”

  1. i’ve called the office of my senator and the local office of my senator-to-be with similar messages but i don’t think john cornyn or ted cruz are going to do much to help this along.

  2. This seems shortsighted: the Dems are defending more seats than the Reeps next time, it’s perfectly plausible that the Reeps will take the chamber in 2014. The last non-Presidential election didn’t go all that well for the Dems, to the best of my memory.

    Anyway, what is so appalling about McConnell’s behavior? He is working the rules as they exist for outcomes he believes in. The Reeps have the House for the foreseeable future, so what good would filibuster reform do the Dems? The Dems have to come to an outcome which is acceptable, even if not palatable, to the other party. Jamming this down their throats does, what, exactly?

    1. Maybe you’re being shortsighted, Dave, looking only at the next election. A democracy should protect the rights of minorities, not give them a veto.

      1. Indeed, Is the filibuster unconstitutional? A good case could be made that is..such as by Common Cause, yet Diane Feinstein wants “to be very cautious but about any dramatic changes to the rules”, rules, despite being so abused, have become the totem or sacred vase on the mantle piece, that she pays homage to, but which are the very opposite to the spirit of the Constitution, and what the founding fathers would have envisaged.

        Emmet Bondurant, a lawyer on the board of Common Cause,

        “And while some may argue that the filibuster has, at this point, been around for well over a century, the Supreme Court has previously held that the fact that “an unconstitutional action has been taken before surely does not render that same action any less unconstitutional at a later date.”

      2. And furthermore Feinstein is 79 and just got reelected. Why should she give a tinker’s damn for public opinion? She will do whatever she wants for the next six years.

    2. What’s appalling is that the rules existed within a social context — the minority can, in extraordinary circumstances, slow up the majority. I personally don’t have a problem with use of the filibuster for very big deal stuff. But routinely, both with appointments and legislation? No thanks. It’s tough to write a rule that spells out the limit, but in a century or more people understood how the body, and the rule, was supposed to work.

      I don’t think Republicans are going to win the Senate in 2014 absent some sort of scandal or collapse. We’re defending more seats, it’s true, but the net pick-up that has to happen to change control is pretty high.

      As for why it matters, I agree that it’s not relevant to legislation. It is relevant to appointments, though.

      1. We were defending more seats this year too. Look at the results: we held them (mostly) and gained a couple.

  3. Regarding communications with Congress, it is my understanding that real letters remain in anti-terrorist limbo for a good, long while before they are certified “safe” and delivered. Email and phone calls are logged immediately and the content noted. Better, perhaps, is a visit to the Congress Critter’s local office to hand deliver an unsealed envelope along with a pleasantly but forcefully delivered personal message. Sen. Feinstein no doubt has an office in Los Angeles. But not Charlottesville, probably. Darn. However, it is a short drive to DC from that ugly slaveholder’s university (assuming the RBC is up to date on the recent rediscovery on the interwebs that the third president was also a creature of his time).

      1. Not at all 😉 just Google News “Thomas Jefferson” or go to Corey Robin’s site, where I have a short comment about the recent absurdities.

  4. Am I the only person who, when I heard Republicans were threatening to shut down the Senate if fillibuster reform went through, had the initial thought, “How would we be able to tell if they did?”

  5. Change the rules, and make ‘me read the phonebook if they want to filibuster. It will provide the appropriate visual, and end the stupidest a reports that state “The measure lost on a 53-46 vote.”

  6. A suggestion: make it clear that the financial support isn´t tied to your state of residence. I´m sure many activist Californian Democrats put more time and money into the closer races in Nevada and Colorado in 2012 than into Feinstein´s shoo-in.

    1. IMHO, not a good idea. The written tying of financial threats/promises to requests to take a political position WEAKENS the force of your argument for an elected official to take that position. (Unless, you are, say, named Grover.)

      This is, in part, based on my experience working on the Hill.

      1. I take it that you object to the linkage in Mark´s letter and not just to my tweak in the comment. Note also that Mark´s a blogger, with a not insignificant audience among the sort of people whose support Feinstein needs. That should add some leverage.
        I deleted your duplicate post as an act of pure kindness. Of course I need the karma points.

        1. Feinstein needs nothing. Lots of people need her, she needs no one. She is 79, just got reelected to a 6-year term. On the off chance that she decides, at 85, that her fun thing to do is to sit in the Senate til 91, she has a huge victory behind her here, she can likely do it. If she thinks her time in the Senate will be more fun and more fruitful with the rules the way they are, that’s how she will vote, and blog fulminations will not sway her.

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