The two old “dogs” in the Senate, Harry Reid, Majority Leader and Democrat; Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader and Republican are going head to head this weekend on Sunday, Politics Day on TV. They are deep in a battle about the filibuster and its overuse in the Senate. Today if there are not 60 votes in favor of a bill, there will be an automatic filibuster which will kill the bill. Every bill must meet the same test, from the least important decisions to the largest. Harry Reid wants to change this filibuster rule which has grown more restrictive with time and which is being used to hold up judicial appointments and cabinet appointments among other things.
Here’s Greg Sargent talking in this morning’s Washington Post in an article titled: The Morning Plum: Why the battle over the filibuster reform matters:
“All signs are that Harry Reid is serious about his threat to exercise the nuclear option and change the Senate rules — ending the filibuster on executive nominations — by simple majority. While Republicans could still cave and acquiesce to Reid’s demand for action on a slate of nominations — allowing Dems to avoid taking the ultimate step, which they would plainly prefer — it is increasingly likely Reid will have no choice but to hit the nuke button.
If so, an epic political battle will unfold over whether the move was justified — one focused on public opinion, and even more so, on elite opinion.”
“In fairness to Republicans, it is not easy to prove in a granular, numerical way that GOP obstructionism of nominations in particular is unprecedented, because there are many ways to cut and evaluate the numbers. But the broad strokes of this debate are overwhelmingly clear. It is plainly true that Republicans have effectively turned the Senate into a 60-vote, super-majority body for even routine business, in a way we haven’t seen before. It is plainly true that Republicans are obstructing Obama nominations (such as Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) for the explicit purpose of preventing the agencies themselves from functioning, rather than just out of objections to the nominees themselves.
I’ll have more for you on this case later, but for now, the point is that these things matter. What’s at stake is the functioning of our democracy, and whether all of this should simply be accepted as a new normal. It shouldn’t.”
“This debate is important. And I hope folks will make a serious effort to get to the bottom of it.”
On the Democratic side, the potential exercise of the nuke option is clearly the result of a new influx of energetic progressives who are genuinely focused on reforming the Upper Chamber and are impatient with Senate business as usual.
Me – The U.S. Constitution calls for a majority. A majority is 51 votes. Making it necessary to have a super-majority in order for a bill to pass is of fairly recent origin. It is time for this rule to go away because it is being used to obstruct the party in control of the Executive Branch and the party in control of the Senate. It is being used by that party, you know which one, the one that lost the last election, to obstruct the agenda of the current administration, to hold America in place until the GOP can rig future elections through voter laws and more gerrymandering (actually gerrymandering on steroids, drawn on a house-to-house basis) and their control over state governments to really put their agenda in place, an agenda that will hurt all Americans except the wealthiest. That filibuster rule should never have become the norm and this is the time to change most Senate votes back to votes that can be won by a simple majority.
Robert Reich, who you may think is as much of a lefty wingnut as many Republicans are righty wingnuts, wrote this intriguing little piece in The Huffington Post this week. At any other time in history I would think that his contentions are fear-mongering and extreme, but at this particular crossroads in history his thinking rings true to me. (See my blog about The Gray Men).
Permit me an impertinent question (or three).
Suppose a small group of extremely wealthy people sought to systematically destroy the U.S. government by (1) finding and bankrolling new candidates pledged to shrinking and dismembering it; (2) intimidating or bribing many current senators and representatives to block all proposed legislation, prevent the appointment of presidential nominees, eliminate funds to implement and enforce laws, and threaten to default on the nation’s debt; (3) taking over state governments in order to redistrict, gerrymander, require voter IDs, purge voter rolls, and otherwise suppress the votes of the majority in federal elections; (4) running a vast PR campaign designed to convince the American public of certain big lies, such as climate change is a hoax, and (5) buying up the media so the public cannot know the truth.
Would you call this treason?
If not, what would you call it?
And what would you do about it?
Me – Sadly, I have felt for some time that there is an organized strategy coming out of Republican groups to change the face of America with the goal of drastically diminishing the power of the federal government, ending the social safety web, giving us a “Darwinist America” with a sink-or-swim principle that will turn life into a quagmire for most of us, instituting a flat tax and giving corporations, banks and financial markets free rein, without regulation. America will truly live out the “survival of the fittest” battle that rules most of the natural world without big brains. America will then become a business profiting some, rather than an ideal which attempts to bring out the best our big brains have to offer.
As Americans we can see that simply adding layers of complex government programs without ever examining their effectiveness or tweaking their efficiency is leading to a federal government and budget that is a bit unwieldy, but streamlining laws and programs is not the same thing as just abandoning them. We could be making a dent in closing loopholes that allow for abuse in federal social safety net programs, but with the insistence on super majorities in both the Senate and the House we are unable to accomplish anything. We are in a massive tug of war for the future of America and the Republicans are toeing the line until they can tug the future in their direction, but they are also creating conditions on their side of the line that will give them an advantage when it is time for that next tug.
We need to encourage our Senators to change the current filibuster rules in the Senate right now because, you may think that you have your hands on the Republican rope and that you will win if you stay on that side, but you are not rich enough to be a Republican, and Republicans will change America in ways that will astound you and hurt you if we don’t wake up now and make some changes to end GOP obstructionism. We need to elect Democrats in 2014.