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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Filibuster Reform Debate Begins in the Senate Today

Everyone is watching Majority Leader Harry Reid to see just how bold he is when it comes to ending obstructionism in the upper chamber.

In today’s On the News segment: Reagan worshippers across America are freaking out after President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address; Republicans in Virginia took an outrageous step Tuesday to rig the next state Senate elections; everyone is watching Majority Leader Harry Reid to see just how bold he is when it comes to ending obstructionism in the upper chamber; and more.


Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Is the era of small government over? Today – Reagan worshippers across America are freaking out after President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address, because he laid out a vision for America that puts an end to the Reagan Revolution and imagines a nation in which “we the people,” through small-“d” democratic government, take better control of our economy and better care of each other. While Reagan stressed the importance of individualism in his inaugural, President Obama talked about cooperation and collective action. As he said on Tuesday, “preserving individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.” It’s the difference between Reagan’s “me” society and the traditional American “we” society the Founders envisioned. Reacting to the speech, Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer called the President’s words, “historically very important” and said that, “Obama basically is declaring the end of Reaganism in America.” President Obama also defended social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security – directly calling out people like Paul Ryan by saying that these programs don’t make us a nation of “takers.” And the President called for us to do something about climate change. But now that the speech is over, it’s time for action. With looming deficit reduction talks, entitlement reform, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and economic troubles on the horizon in Europe – the time for talking is over. Over the next four years, President Obama must find his inner revolutionary and change the trajectory of America by putting an end to Reaganomics and once again – to quote the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – bend the arc of human history toward justice.

In screwed news…Republicans in Virginia took an outrageous step Tuesday to rig the next state Senate elections. While the nation was focused on the Inauguration, Republicans passed legislation to redraw the state’s districts and increase how many of them are considered safe Republican seats. Currently, the Virginia state senate is split 20-20 between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans were only able to sneak this legislation through because one of the Democratic state senators was in Washington, DC attending the President’s inauguration – thus, giving the Republicans a one-vote advantage. Reacting to passage of the new redistricting scheme, Democratic state senator Creigh Deeds said, “It goes against every tradition. It was a dirty trick.” So, Virginia Republicans have reached the same conclusion as Republicans in Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconisn, Michigan, and Ohio. If you can’t win elections legitimately, then rig them.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Debate in the Senate on filibuster reform begins today – and everyone is watching Majority Leader Harry Reid to see just how bold he is when it comes to ending obstructionism in the upper chamber. At a Democratic caucus meeting today, Harry Reid will make the case for more moderate filibuster reform that cuts down the number of filibusters that the minority can use – but still allows Republicans to require every piece of legislation to get 60 votes or die in the Senate. But Senators Merkley and Udall will again make a case for their much stronger filibuster reform, which will require the Republicans to speak on the floor of the Senate for the entire time they wish to filibuster. That plan just received another supporter – new Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, who released a statement saying, “We face big challenges that demand effective government action and solutions, not more of the same standstill that has become the status quo in Washington.” Let’s hope stronger voices prevail. The filibuster, as it’s been abused by Republicans, must be scrapped, and democratic majority rule must return to the people’s Senate.

Speaking of the Senate…while Republicans in the House draft yet another budget to cut taxes for the rich and voucherize Medicare, Democrats in the Senate are working on a new budget that will lay out a different vision of America. As the Washington Post reports, “Senate Democrats plan to draft a budget blueprint that calls for significantly higher taxes on the wealthy, oil and gas companies, and corporations doing business overseas.” Unlike most legislation, budgets can be passed by a simple majority in the Senate – meaning Mitch McConnell and the Republicans can’t filibuster it. When both Chambers of Congress come out with their budget proposals – we’ll see two different visions for America. One in the House that takes us backward toward neo-feudalism and rule by the rich. And one in the Senate will moves us toward progress, and a healthy middle class.

And finally…want to end world poverty? Tax the rich! According to a new Oxfam report prepared for the Davos World Economic Forum, just last year’s profits of the world’s one hundred wealthiest people alone could end poverty around the planet four times over. In 2012, the richest one hundred billionaires netted $240 billion in income – far more than enough to lift the rest of the world out of poverty. As Oxfam’s chief executive, Barbara Stocking, said, “In a world where even basic resources such as land and water are increasingly scarce, we cannot afford to concentrate assets in the hands of a few and leave the many to struggle over what’s left.” Here in the United States – where wealth inequality is higher than any other developed nation in the world – we can take immediate action to wipe out poverty and get demand back in our economy. And that’s by placing a new wealth tax on the billionaires so any income over $999,million dollars is taxed at 99% – so that it can be funneled back through our economy rather than just sit in a Swiss bank account. It’s called the #NoBillionaires Campaign. Go to

And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, January 22nd, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.

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