Sen Bernie Sanders of Vermont, perhaps the most vocal critic of the tax cut deal, has taken over the Senate floor and staged some kind of filibuster to denounce the deal. After two hours of Sanders speaking, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio took over. As I write this, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is talking and I’ve never heard her like this before, talking about how the priests in her Catholic school taught the kids not to be greedy and not to take more than you need. She’s demanding that whichever Senate Republican asked the tax cuts be preserved by those with annual incomes above $1 million keep their tax cuts.
It’s live on Cspan2, if you get that on your cable, and it’s available online here. It’s pretty cool and Capra-esque if you have a chance to watch or listen to a bit of it. Landrieu claims to be finishing up. Not sure what happens next.
Update: A couple of hours later, it’s still going on. No one other than Sander has had the floor for a long time. He’s not reading the phone book or anything, in fact he’s showing an fairly impressive ability to maintain coherence and momentum and the gospel he is preaching is the credo of what Paul Wellstone used to call the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.
But, having railed against the filibuster earlier this year, I feel compelled to repeat that the filibuster is rendering our country ungovernable. I don’t believe Sanders is working under the modern fiilibuster tradition, where someone simply indicates an intention to filibuster and the issue is usually set aside until the the majority is able to assemble 60 votes for cloture.
Sanders is doing it the old-fashioned way, by claiming the floor and refusing to yield it (although no one is asking him to yield and very few of his colleagues are in the chamber). Anyway, I still believe the country would be better off if the Senate had a rule that allowed for some reasonable definition of full debate, but then a way of guaranteeing that the matter eventually comes to a vote under majority rule.
Last update: At 6 p.m. central time, Sanders just yielded the floor. He started at about 9:30 central. No other colleagues gave him a break after Brown and Landrieu, both of whom spoke, relatively briefly, in the first half of the day. I can’t claim to have listened to it all, or even most of it, but it what I saw was an impressive performance. I said above that Sanders’ views represented the credo of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. I should have noted that, although he caucuses with the Dems, Sanders is not one. He is technically an independent and considers himself a “democratic socialist,” possibly the only self-styled socialist ever in the Senate.