Reid Vows to Change Senate Filibuster Rules

Highlighting the serial and continuing abuse of the Senate's byzantine to begin with rules by an obstructionist GOP, Senator Harry Reid noted that he's looking at ways to change the procedural rules that govern the Senate. Speaking at Netroots Nation over the weekend, Senator Reid bemoaned the delaying tactics employed by the Republicans whose modus operandi might be described simply thus: "to delay is to derail."

The story in The Hill:

[Senate Majority Leader] Reid said that while Democrats were still looking at options as to how they would change the filibuster, Republicans' use of the rules to force a 60-vote majority on most items before the Senate meant that a change was needed.

"This Republican Senate has started abusing the rules, so we're going to have to change it," Reid told liberal bloggers assembled in Las Vegas for the "Netroots Nation" conference.

"We do not have a plan fully developed yet, but we're looking at ways to change it," Reid said.

Frustration at the Senate rules and the frequent gridlock Republicans have been able to force peppered Reid's remarks to the bloggers. The top Senate Democrat defended his party's work in the Senate the past year and a half, but acknowledged that they might have been able to have been more ambitious in the pace and scope of their legislative agenda if not for Republicans.

"Suddenly, 60 is the new 51," he said, noting the new standard for legislation.

Senate rules allow individual members to filibuster a legislation -- in essence, continuing debate indefinitely -- unless 60 votes can be found to move to a final vote. Democrats control 59 seats, meaning at least one Republican is needed to advance a bill.

Reid noted that Democrats for a time enjoyed a 60-vote majority that should have allowed them to advance a number of priorities, but the majority leader argued that it was short-lived.

"Remember, we only had 60 votes for a matter of a few weeks," he explained, noting the delay in swearing in Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) last August. "60 votes was a very fleeting time in history in this country. But we did a lot of time during that period."

Still, a rules change would be difficult for Democrats to manage if they keep their majority after this year's midterm elections, in which Republicans are expected to make gains. Senate rules require 67 votes just to change the rules, meaning that a number of GOP senators would have to sign on to an effort that would undercut one of their most useful tactics as a minority party.

Reform of the Senate's rules, and in particular an amelioration of the filibuster, is a welcomed development. Still the greater problem is a design flaw that over-represents rural conservative interests and resolving that problem requires a Constitutional amendment that frankly that of as now is simply inconceivable. But even as the solution may escape us, the problem is real and growing by the day. Urban America's hopes for a more progressive nation are thwarted by an ever more conservative rural America even as urban America's numbers grow and rural America's numbers dwindle.

The 26 least populous states in the country who form a majority in the Senate represent just 17.8 percent of the nation's population according to the 2000 US Census. While these 26 include states like Vermont, Delaware and Rhode Island, of the 26 least populous states 15 voted for McCain and 11 for Obama in 2008 but if we go back to 2004 then 19 of these 26 states voted for Bush versus just eight for Kerry (OR, CT, RI, ME, VT, HA, NH, DE). The most populous of these 26 states is Colorado and the least is Wyoming with the bulk of the states being a mixture of Southern, Prairie, Mountain West/Far West or New England states. Of these four regions, three are overwhelmingly rural and conservative and account for 20 of the 26 states. The United States is not the only country with a legislative body that over-represents rural interests. Thailand and Japan have the same problem and not surprisingly suffer from many of the same problems that we do.

As the Republican Party is favored by rural and conservative interests, it too is overrepresented in the Senate though not to the extreme shown above. The GOP has 40 Senators at the moment but those seats represent just a fraction above 35 percent of the US population. Still that's an over-representation of 5 Senate seats, not an insignificant number in a hundred member body.

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Reid Not Dead Yet

A new poll by the Las Vegas Review Journal shows that Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid has opened a strong lead over his Republican/Tea Party opponent the wacky Sharron Angle. Perhaps sanity will triumph over insanity.

The Democratic incumbent's aggressive strategy of attacking Angle's staunch conservative views from the moment she won the June 8 primary has cost her support among every voter group -- from men and women to both political parties and independents -- in vote-rich Clark and Washoe counties.

The Mason-Dixon poll showed that if the general election were held now, Reid would win 44 percent to 37 percent for Angle. Ten percent were undecided, 5 percent would choose "none of these candidates," and the remaining 4 percent would pick another candidate on the ballot.

That is the best Reid has done against Angle this year in a series of Mason-Dixon polls. Previously, the two had been locked in a statistical dead heat with Angle finishing just ahead of Reid in February, 44 percent to 42 percent, and in June, 44 percent to 41 percent, and Reid finishing just ahead of Angle in May, 42 percent to 39 percent.

The phone survey, taken Monday through Wednesday of 625 likely voters in Nevada, is the first in which Reid has finished ahead of Angle outside the margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

According to the poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Research for the Las Vegas Review Journal, 46 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of Reid and 37 percent have a favorable view of him now. That compares with 52 percent to 35 percent in June. Meanwhile Angle's unfavorable rating jumped by double digits -- from 25 percent in early June to 43 percent now -- while her favorable rating is now 33 percent compared with 38 percent last month.

As a result, Angle lost support across the board in July compared with early June:

■ Among men, Angle fell from 50 percent support to 41 percent now.

■ Among women, 38 percent to 33 percent.

■ Among Democrats, 12 percent to 8 percent.

■ Among Republicans, 81 percent to 70 percent.

■ Among independents, 41 percent to 35 percent.

■ Among Clark County voters, 37 percent to 32 percent.

■ And among Washoe County voters, 51 percent to 34 percent.

Reid's support ticked up a bit among all those groups except nonpartisans, with his backing holding steady at 37 percent now compared with 37 percent in the June 1-3 survey.

The Democratic incumbent, whose base of support is Southern Nevada, saw his numbers shoot up by double digits in Washoe County -- from 32 percent to 45 percent -- which should jolt Angle, whose base is Northern and rural Nevada, which remains strongly for her and against Reid.

Harry Reid is not out of the woods yet but it is nice to see him outside the margin of error because wacky Sharron Angle is just plain looney.

Progressive bloggers discuss immigration at upcoming Netroots Nation 2010 in Vegas

From Restore Fairness blog

Progressive bloggers like Restore Fairness (www.restorefairness.org) will be presenting panels on immigration at Netroots Nation in the last week of July. Netroots Nation is an annual convention that amplifies progressive voices online and in-person and provides space for discussing ways to improve the use of technology to influence the public debate.

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Will uncovering the truth on immigration lead to more accountability?

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Fired up by the passage of Arizona’s harsh new anti-immigrant bill SB1070, organizations across the country launched a week of actions aimed to “Uncover the Truth” about collaborations between federal immigration and local police. These collaborations, carried out through programs such as 287(g) and Secure Communities begun during the Bush administration, are precursors to Arizona’s new law that gives local law enforcement the right to check the immigration status of people. Originally intended for violent criminals, these programs have become notorious for racial profiling and misuse by local police, compounded by inadequate training and a lack of transparency.

“Uncover the Truth” kicked off yesterday with the The National Day Laborer Organizing Network, The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Immigration Justice Clinic announcing a Freedom of Information lawsuit for records related to the little known Secure Communities program. According to Sunita Patel-

ICE’s so-called Secure Communities program is growing at an alarming rate – more than 150 jurisdictions so far – without public knowledge or discourse…SB1070 and the recent dangerous ICE raids in Arizona have already proven that ICE and local or state police collaboration will only further erode public trust in law enforcement, systematize racial profiling, create incentives for illegal arrests and prevent police from doing their job, failing to keep our communities safe.

While the government’s own report has pointed out glaring problems in the 287(g) program, the Secure Communities program has not received adequate attention, even as it expands at a worrying pace. For those jails enrolled in the program, Secure Communities runs fingerprints through immigration databases when individuals are arrested, even for minor charges or if charges are dismissed. If there is a “hit”, immigration is notified and the individual is funneled into immigration detention. These checks are performed on innocent arrestees even before conviction, raising serious doubts as to whether it fulfills its stated objective of going after violent criminals.

Besides eroding community trust with the police, the program has criminalized the immigration detention system with a majority of those caught identified for minor crimes or U.S. citizens. An FOI found Secure Communities has “misidentified more than 5,800 arrested U.S. citizens as undocumented workers” since 2008. Available evidence shows little accountability and transparency, yet a whopping $200 million has been allocated to Secure Communities, with an eye toward establishing it nationwide in every jail by late 2012.

Before it gets that far, “Uncover the Truth’s” national week of action is making Congress accountable through press conferences, community forums, vigils at detention centers and audio testimonials across Arizona, California, Texas, Georgia, New York, Maryland and many other cities, asking questions about the way these collaborations impair people’s trust in their police officers and instigate racial profiling.

But increasing enforcement seems to be on the horizon, both in the blueprint for an immigration reform bill put forth by Senator Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham, as well as a contingency plan Democrat only immigration reform bill (in case no Republican agree to support the blueprint) that came out today that calls for increased border security and immigration effort before a path for legalization for the nation’s undocumented population. This plan too seems to be going down the path of increased enforcement, rather than addressing the serious problems caused by programs such as Secure Communities and 287(g).

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

Tea Party Candidate in Nevada Senate Race May Be Reid's Saving Gracee

If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid succeeds in his bid to win re-election, he may want to send a thank you note to Jon Scott Ashjian who is running as the Tea Party of Nevada candidate. While polls in mid-February had put Ashjian, a 46 year old self-described "frustrated patriot" and independent businessman, at about 9 percent but more recent polling suggests that he is now up to around 18 percent with the gain coming at the expense of GOP hopefuls Sue Lowen or Danny Tarkanian catapulting the embattled Senator Reid into a four point lead.

Polling results for the Las Vegas Review-Journal indicate that if the election were held and with Ashjian in the race, Senator Reid would draw 36 percent of voters, while the Republican nominee would get 32 percent and the Tea Party candidate 18 percent. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points. That's pretty much the best news Harry Reid has had in a long, long time.

Over the weekend, the Las Vegas Review Journal profiled Jon Scott Ashjian who left the Republican party the day he decided to run for the Senate seat.

Ashjian says he's learning the ropes through this grass-roots movement, where he is his own communications director who answers the phone, relies heavily on family and friends for help and schedules his own TV and radio appearances, which are starting to pick up.

Don't call him a politician, though.

"I'm a frustrated patriot," Ashjian said. "I'm not a politician. I'm not savvy with radio and TV. But I believe I can make a change, and that's what I'm here for. I'm here to give people a third voice."

A campaign Web site is in the works, with a Facebook profile and a Twitter account -- all of the necessary social media to get his message to voters.

His traditionally conservative platform is simple:

■ Smaller government.

■ Fiscal responsibility by voting against future stimulus packages, big business bailouts and tax increases.

■ Cutting small-business taxes.

■ Investing in education.

■ Creating jobs.

Ashjian describes the Tea Party of Nevada as being neither Democrats nor Republicans but simply tax payers fed up with big government and high taxes.

"We're not Republican or Democrat," Ashjian said. "We won't fold into one party or the other. We're a tax-paying party that can make a difference and a party of normal people who want change. Bigger government and higher taxes is not working. Right now we're at a real crossroads to make change, and the bottom line is there's never been so much disdain for politicians."

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