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tv   [untitled]    January 4, 2013 7:00pm-7:30pm EST

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market why not. find out what's really happening to the global economy with mike stronger for a no holds barred look at the mobile financial headlines tune in to conjure reports . on john martin in washington d.c. and here's what's coming up tonight on the big picture that are not productive congress would be if the filibuster were a thing of the past things that actually get done on capitol hill for the benefit of all americans saying goodbye to the filibuster even realistic ask our panelists and i had special bigger picture discussion on filibuster reform also speaking of filibusters i do republicans really love it when they use it to hold more crucial legislation hostage in the weeks to come all that and more and tonight's big
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picture rumble. this week the one hundred thirteenth congress was officially sworn in and unlike the hundred twelfth congress which is full of obstructions senators are hoping this new session will actually see some important legislation passed instead of merely being blocked and whether or not that actually happens pens and what happens over the next two weeks in the senate when it comes to filibuster reform after years of record breaking filibusters by the republican minority movement is afoot in the upper chamber to reform the filibuster one option presented by senators jeff merkley in town you'd all hinges on bringing back the talking filibuster actually establishing it was never there legally to begin with forcing any senators who wish to filibuster to actually stand on the floor of the senate and talk the entire time
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bill mr smith goes to washington style another option spearheaded by more moderate senators john mccain simply reduces the number of redundant filibusters and gives more power to the minority to amend senate bills as an alternative to filibuster in that whichever course of action majority leader harry reid chooses will have a profound effect not just on the senate but the entire congress the nation and perhaps even the upcoming midterm elections so for tonight the bigger picture discussion going to tackle the issue of the filibuster what it is history how it's been used and abused what are the current dynamics shaping filibuster reform so let's get started joining me on the panel tonight bob edgar former member of congress from pennsylvania now president and c.e.o. of common cause kurt wallander research associate at the public campaign action fund and shane larson legislative director for the communication workers of america welcome to you all public campaign campaign. for you the jury and.
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so let me start out occurred actually with you. sort of the beginning why was the filibuster when was the filibuster how is the filibuster conceived well that's the funny part about. the history of the filibuster is that there was no sort of strong start date to it it was not part of the constitution nothing along those lines and so it sort of was an accident of history and i'm sure bob and shane might know more about the exact date that it first began but i know it was about twenty years after the passage of the constitution and then it was just sort of established because. we now want to have a redundant rule and it was actually invented by accident by aaron burr twenty years after the constitution and wasn't named to filibuster till fifty years after the constitution common cause is in the federal courts arguing that the filibuster is actually unconstitutional if you go back and read the federalist papers an english common law you discover that the founding fathers were scared that
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a supermajority vote would be necessary on all issues so they were very smart they put six or seven instances in the constitution you can impeach the president without a supermajority vote you can't have a treaty without a supermajority vote on all other issues they wanted majority rule they wanted to respect the minority but they want to majority rule and frankly up until one nine hundred seventy the filibuster was used one or two or three times during a two year period it was used more often to protect slavery and lynching laws than it was to protect human rights or civil rights or people's rights and in the last six eight years a conservative group of senators representing only about fourteen percent of the population of the united states have discovered that they can call a filibuster and not do like mr smith goes to washington where they stand and defend their positions but they discovered that just by threatening
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a filibuster the leadership pulls the bill and if in fact they cloture vote is called they need sixty votes and here's a very important. illustration spring court in citizens united voted five to four to give corporations the opportunity to use corporate treasuries in political campaigns but eight of the nine justices when they signed that particular judicial decision eight of the nine justices said the house and senate should pass legislation for full disclosure so the white house worked on it the house of representatives passed a disclosure bill went over to the senate it got fifty nine votes the first time around the edges of which close was the majority the second time around it got fifty five votes and what's interesting about the fifty five votes is that in nineteen sixty five when medicare passed it only had fifty five votes
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so it's important for us to recognize the filibuster has been used as an object of obstruction it was never intended to be used like that and common cause believes that is frankly unconstitutional and if we can get past the issue of standing and get before the judicial community with the merits of the unconstitutionality the filibuster i think we can go back to having the house and senate operate its democracy through how to be unconstitutional when the constitution clearly states that both bodies have the right indeed the power to establish their own rules for their own we're going to see an interesting point we did we went back in history and we found four or five or six instances where the court stepped in and said yes the constitution says the house and senate can make its own rules but those rules can't be unconstitutional you remember when they were in the house i was a member house from one nine hundred seventy five to one nine hundred eighty seven
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prior to my getting to the house the house tried and tried to block a member from becoming a member of the house because they didn't like him he had some convictions against him. the supreme court stepped in and said adam clayton powell has to be seated because there's no prohibition in the constitution for his particular offenses if you are twenty five years of age and you meet the other requirements you have to be seated as a driver isn't about the only right over there are several instances in the constitution where the courts have pushed back and said yes you can have your own rules but those rules can you think there's clear precedent for the same time you know look let's take one step back and think about why we have the constitution because the articles of confederation didn't work the articles of confederation required a super majority and that's in effect what we have today with the way that the filibuster has been abused is really the need for
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a supermajority for the senate to do anything these days could you even talk about a filibuster ever since we began without having first absolutely clearly defined it how does that work well basically it today it's it's what you would call a silent filibuster it's a way of blocking legislation to get into a way of even be discussed it's a way to prevent any legislation from being discussed in any way shape or form or grind the senate to a complete halt and that's what you've seen today is it's really a silent filibuster as ben jealous from the calls of the cowards filibuster it's somebody can call in an objection from the golf course or from most likely a fundraiser i was astounded to discover that it's often not my e-mail it is a very very often and what you've seen is that it's not the big debates of the past like the civil rights act i mean lyndon johnson majority leader for six years he had one filibuster over the civil rights act today harry reid six years same amount
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of time as majority leader almost four hundred filibusters today and you don't have the talking filibuster requirement today that. an important point because some people who oppose what we're doing it in the courts are what some of the more progressive senators are doing trying to fix the filibuster they argue all the senate needs to be a deliberative body it needs to slow up the process he can introduce a bill on monday have it be law on wednesday have it be an operative on friday so the filibuster is used to slow up debate actually that's absolutely false there ought to be no filibusters in the front end of the decision they ought to bring the bills up to the floor particularly those important pieces of legislation health care for example came to the senate and because of the filibuster they never got around to talking about the single payer issue they cared to keep watering down the
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fillip the health care legislation until they got sixty votes that was never intended in the constitution. you don't have these debates because the republicans now routinely filibuster what's called the motion to proceed so you can't even motion proceeding just the way bill exactly discussed in the bill and i encourage you to you've done some interesting research on exactly what we did we released a report just yesterday in kentucky and it was called cashing in on obstruction looking just at minority leader mitch mcconnell and so in the past six years since he became minority leader who's he's behind much of it pulls the trigger exactly she's all of those you find a lot of it even if he doesn't initiate right and so the average number of filibusters has doubled since he became minority leader at the beginning of two thousand and seven and in a report we did as we looked through at who benefits from a lot of these filibusters we found an interesting pattern namely that
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a lot of the times these same industries that are benefiting from having these bills blocked at the same industries giving lots of money to mcconnell and a lot of the same allies who are supporting those filibusters we have a fascinating chart that came out of your p.d.f. or your file that shows it's on the screen right now and also in the queue behind us which shows mitch mcconnell's wealth that's the blue vertical we're going to bars and the average wealth of men or members of the senate that's the goal line and it seems like since mitch mcconnell got into the filibuster business he's now worth thirty million bucks more or less they didn't start out that way and typically people don't go to congress and suddenly go from being worth you know a little bit to being more than thirty million dollars is not supposed to work that way and what's also remarkable is that first of all i want to give credit for that graphic that's from the center for responsive politics of credit where it's due but as he's become more wealthy he repeatedly has been blocking legislation crew crucial for just everyday people whether it's payroll tax tax cut or whether it's
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ending wasteful subsidies to big oil or to companies for shipping jobs overseas really the last thing we want to encourage with are taxed. policy he's regularly been hurting average kentucky and average americans of all sorts i think it's interesting and we just have a few seconds before the break and we'll get into this more depth but i think it's really interesting that tom de lay was just sentenced to three years in jail down in texas for me kind of a very well actually not so much a variation of this it was for his for taking corporate campaign contributions which you know a variation on the children act but but you know the type of corruption that we've been seen you know tom de lay got is this for years wrecking yard you think mitch mcconnell well one thing is that it's a different type of corruption so a lot of times it's not the same brown paper paper bag full of cash being passed under the table it's not that kind of corruption what's important is that say when he's blocking legislation that would have ended some large tax breaks to the biggest oil companies the big oil companies they know they've got the ally in
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congress they need they've got mcconnell and he's going to block that legislation and he knows he's got his back with the campaign contributions he needs to get a lot more of tonight's bigger picture discussion on the senate filibuster right after this break. let me let me i want to know why don't you let me ask you a question. here on this network and this is what we're having a debate we have i know you say. if you do this right it's about staying there figuring this race will be and i think we can talk about the name and. you know how sometimes you see a story and it seems so for lengthly you think you understand it and then you glimpse something else you hear or see some other part of it and realize everything
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you thought you knew you don't know i'm tom hartman welcome to the big picture. here is mitt romney trying to figure out the name of that thing that we americans call a donor. i'm sorry i missed the guy who cares an awful lot about money use our own are a fool you know what kind of mind they're terrorist cells in your neighborhood i don't want to give us a defeat terrorism the only liberal i know chris good point you. can secure the borders. if you know that we're going to distract us from what you and i should care about because they're a profit driven industry that sells us and facials the garbage he calls it breaking news i'm having martin and we're going to break that.
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and welcome back to tonight's bigger picture discussion on reforming the senate filibuster joining me on the panel are bob edgar former member of congress in pennsylvania now the president and c.e.o. of common cause kurt walter research associate at the public campaign action fund and shane larson legislative director for the communication workers of america and let's get back to it just apropos of where we left off the last one curt you were we were talking about your report and there's an appendix to your reporting that somebody had said some years ago and it's been repeated many times and many people in a whole variety of ways that the most profitable business in america is investing in
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legislators you know it's you know and if you're going to start a semiconductor company you invest a million you might make a million and a half but listen to these numbers general electric invested one hundred two thousand dollars in mitch mcconnell and. one hundred seventy four thousand dollars to mitch mcconnell and they're underpaid patriot and repatriated offshore profits which mcconnell allowed them to keep by using the filibuster hundred two million dollars invested hundred seventy thousand make one hundred two million microsoft one hundred thousand dollars investment sixty million dollars return a parent you know my my words i mean these are not your words but this is the only this is i think not even a. less than charitable interpretation is exxon mobil seventy four thousand all investment mcconnell forty seven million dollars return and the list goes on i mean all the way down to down to you know of a thousand dollar investment from
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a company that made a million dollars or so are we looking here at a corrupt politician in mitch mcconnell who's who's had his wealth explode now or are we looking at a corrupt system that's merely being use. it's hard to say exactly where his wealth has come from and how it's exploded in that way but if you do think about it as a return on investment so look at wall street they make those investments all the time after the dodd frank bill got passed we had a bureau established c.f.p. be dedicated to solar as protection exactly dedicated just to protecting consumers from you know fine print that sort of thing banks didn't like it they got mcconnell even though they lost the fight on the bill to block the director for a four year and a half once that director was put in and obama had to do a recess appointment first two actions three hundred twenty million dollars in settlements for capital one in american express and that's in fines and refunds and these were for felony actions nobody went to jail no one to go to jail i don't
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believe. but those are some of the connell's biggest fundraising sources you're chomping at the bit here as well my friend bill moyers says this is the most dangerous moment in american history for democracy because of the citizens united decision money is corroding the system the day before citizens united came down money was in the system even back in one thousand nine hundred seventy five when i got elected to congress when he was important but back then the talking points came first now the check book comes first on the first day of the legislative session they have a big celebration the lobbyist whichever party is having the event they bring stacks of money now come along citizens united and what i would say to the points that were made is that mcconnell is taking advantage using the filibuster and it's just one of the variety of efforts to take a look at the fiscal cliff legislation and how many pieces of pork barrel were in
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that helping the people who run race cars and others all of that was stuff going on sex one point six billion for new corporate headquarters and if you have if you have the power to buy access and that's what all these special. doing they're buying access and money is corroding system and frankly both parties are at fault one of the things i like about senator tom harkin of iowa in one thousand nine hundred ninety four when the republicans took over the senate for a time he was out there with a filibuster reform effort and his idea was let's keep the sixty votes but three days later make it fifty eight votes and then go down to fifty five votes and then go but eventually over a two or three week period get to a majority vote and here's a question for all of us to consider should democracy be based on a supermajority should every labor union vote be a super majority vote in every church or synagogue or mosque when they have
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a vote have a super majority should our elections be based on it's actually thirds of americans to elect a president exactly and i think it's really important to recognize that the founding fathers early on in the federalist papers. in the wake of english common law insisted that democracy in the united states would be based on majority rule with with recognition and support and protection of the minority but they never ever intended in fact argued strenuously that a supermajority vote would be not in the best interest you know think about all of the pieces even all of the fiscal matters and others should be decided by majority rule and if the senate wants to put rules in place that slow up the process but there ought to be an opportunity the house passed more than four hundred pieces of legislation many of them passed by supermajority votes because they supported it
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this is when it's a close it was split even when even when baner has passed a number of bills over to the senate that lie idle because one senator. argued to to call a fill. and stop the process shane tom one of the besides the legislation i think we're missing the fact that these nominations are being held up one of the things that brought c.w.a. to this fight is the fact that one of our members was nominated to be the public printer of the united states to run the g.p.o. one republican held up his nomination to the point where they had to drop they ran out of time to confirm him and objected and held it up because of the fact that he was a union member and look at the judicial crisis we have today the fact that the president there are more vacancies now than when he came into office it's because of the abuse of these rules to not just block legislation but to block nominations to the judiciary to the whole of the federal agents and on top of that they also don't go
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out of session so that a recess appointment can add a so it's so it's like if you can't win using small democracy then when by rigging the game in it and let me just throw this in a political frame for a moment and i know that probably. none of you are affiliated directly with a political party but it but just looking at this and feel free to back away if you want but. i'm seeing the same thing with two pieces here one i'm seeing the same thing with with this this these these measures to suppress the vote you know back in one thousand nine hundred. you know our legislature our leverage goes up quite candidly as the voting populace goes down and the the organization that he founded the american legislative exchange council has pushed all these voter suppression id bills and there are you there you know uniformly being pushed by republicans and work to the detriment of democrats rigging the game the
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incredible gerrymandering that we saw in two thousand and ten rigging the game we're describing rigging the game here in the senate the you know if you can't win by democracy when the game taking that first thought i'd love to get any comments from you on that but i'd also like. some thoughts on taking that two years out in two years the american people are going to have an election and midterm elections tend to have low voter turnout and so when there's a lot of contrast good things going to happen or bad things can happen but things will happen when there's not a lot of contrast pretty much the status quo stays if the filibuster's reform this is my take on this some love to get your thoughts or if the filibuster is reformed then the democrats in the senate even though their legislation won't be mass matched in the house and it won't be made into law the democrats in the senate can pass a whole pile a really good laws on the american people will see it absolutely and on the other end of the filibuster is not reformed then it'll always be it looks like for the next two years it was all republican absentee vote and let me just say two things
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first about the american legislative exchange council common cause last year found that there was a provision in the i.r.s. code to have a whistleblower complaint for tax fraud and we discovered that this organization the american legislative exchange council alec for forty some years founded by paul wire act and henry hyde has been filing as a charity and all the corporations that are part of it have been getting tax reduction as a charity we filed that with four thousand eight hundred. ages of documents that we have gotten with the i.r.s. and sometime this spring the i.r.s. is going to come out and the corporations that have stayed with alec this very conservative group that puts model legislation are going to be really hit hard with tax issues and paul why wreck in that quote that i saw in one of the documentaries recently said he didn't want everybody to vote that's why they pushed the idea of all that's why they do voter suppression but there is
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a one little piece of good news on the issue of redistricting working with a whole group of partners in california we took away this year from the legislature both democratic and republican the ability to draw the lines every ten years for redistricting set up a commission and this year for the first time in history in california the voters pick their legislators rather than the legislators picking their voters this was over the objection of nancy pelosi it was over the objections of both political parties like gerrymandering they've always done i just you your first question was dead on we've come to the conclusion in the labor movement be environmental community has bob a common cause public campaign the things we care the most about whether it be climate change whether it be immigration whether it be fixing the campaign finance system we're not going to see any meaningful progress on those issues if we don't break down what we're calling it c w a the democracy blocks because the people are with us on all of that but the other side have directed these barriers for us in
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terms of voter suppression in terms of the money in politics citizens united and the senate rules being a key piece of that that they have the rock rectitude that are keeping us from being able to get our way and to get our ideas addressed in the legislative and political process just completely agree on that and the thing is we want our political system to reflect our core american values so whether it's participation people need to be able to vote without. waiting two hours in line whether it's the one person one vote principle applied to campaign finance if one person is able to give huge checks and another is not that's not political equality and so as well as you know majority rule with the filibuster so we need to have our whole system reflect those core values and this is the encouraging thing is that the progressive community is getting this we had a meeting back on december tenth of a coming together of the good government government reform groups of the environmental community civil rights labor all came together and we spent the
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entire day looking at what are opportunities in twenty thirteen to actually push forward to breaking down working together and we as a progressive movement can break those barriers down if we all work together we have about thirty seconds you know one of the things that follows on that combat is that i think for the first time in history here's the good news the environmentalist the health care advocates the peace advocates people who are passionate about issues who spend one hundred percent of their time trying to do good are now spending ten and fifteen percent of their time working on this democracy issue walking on reform issues and i like the fact that the communication workers came to common cause just two years ago and said that common causes issues working on good government are now the issues of the labor community because they know they're not going to get anything done unless we reform our system so democracy works from your lips to god's ears let us hope that it works bob. thank
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you all very much for being with us great to be with you to watch this discussion as well as other conversations of great minds segments go to our website conversations in the great minds dot com that's big picture rumble right after the break.
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you know how sometimes you see a story and it seems so for langley you think you understand it and then you glimpse something else and you hear or see some other part of it and realize everything you thought you knew you don't know i'm tom harvey welcome to the big picture.


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