Friday, November 14, 2008

Senate Rules Changes?

So - now that the Democrats have a near-Filibuster proof majority in the Senate, isn't it a good time for the majority to change the rules? I think that now is an excellent time for the change as it will not appear cynical. One side won't be gaining much on the other, if at all. Depending on the legislation, rounding up 60 votes will be easier than it has been since the '70s.

I'd like to see an end to the Filibuster. It is not being used as it was originally intended. Both parties have used the very undemocratic tool whenever it was convenient. I think a presidential signature and majority vote in two separate bodies, subject to judicial review, is all the check and balance we need. Effectively placing the minority in control of the Senate is no way to govern.

In the recent past the Republicans have threatened the "constitutional option" (aka "nuclear option") when Democrats threatened to Filibuster SC appointments. Tell me please, why should a president need to get 60 votes to approve an appointment when the constitution makes no mention of such a super majority?    

Until the early 1980's, senators had to continuously speak from the Senate floor in order to maintain the Filibuster. Consequently, they were rare and usually ony applied to matters in which members held deep philosophical convictions. Then, the rules were changed such that  one need only prove it had 41+/= votes to prevent a vote. I don't think going back to this policy is the best approach. Thanks to C-Span, politicians from both sides would be dying to have hours on the floor to themselves. 

I also think the ability of individual senators to put a "hold" on legislation (short term) or an appointment (potentially long term) is unconscionable. Apparently, it takes over a year to fill all of the administration's appointed positions (3,000 +/-) as various senators will hold up the show in an effort to gain concessions on pet legislation and/or personnel. Really, it is just as corrupt as the earmark system.

Perhaps this question will pull our M Law grad out of his undisclosed location: Would a constitutional challenge to the "hold" and Filibuster systems prevail? The consititution calls for each body to make it own rules, but is this discretion unlimited? Shouldn't a constitutional amendment be required for anything that would require a super majority vote?  



Hags said...


It is just SO AWESOME that you arrived at these breakthrough conclusions at a time when your side is SO CLOSE to complete control. I can just picture you in exactly the same mode a few years ago when when the Reps were planning what you refer to as the NUclear Option.

Now, however, unilateral control seems to represent the height of informed reason,

A majority in each house and the signature of the President should suffice.


Our system is designed to to prevent the tyranny of the majority. 53 to 46 (plus 1 for the nut cases (read Nader and Barr)) does not constitute a mandate for turning the country upside down. Do you remember reading about Roosevelt trying to pack the Supreme Court?!?!? Do you remember the reaction in the press (and probably by you) when the Reps thought about the Nuclear Option?!?!?!?!? But, now, when your personal sense of the Voice of Reason has prevailed, you think we should sweep away all those pesky impediments to change.

What a dope!!!

Here's a free clue, since you don't seem to know where to buy one: neither you nor your team has all the answers. The reason the system is designed to make change difficult is that, by and large, the urge to react to the current crisis, as perceived, is simply misguided.

Rather than turn the word upside down, how about if you trust the system, as designed, to work. I thought it was wrong when my guys wanted to go Nuclear. I think you are similarly off base.

If you or your side has/have compelling solutions, your country will recognize them. Try to overcome the intoxication of being in a simple majority.

I still love you but you but could you slow down a bit?


Baxter said...


Based upon the hour and content of your posting, I'm going to guess that adult beverages assisted in your witty prose. Perhaps, you are still working on some post election "issues".

I actually have ALWAYS opposed the Filibuster. Your fav cardiologist can vouch for that.

I hoped that the GOP would go nuclear, as I thought they would prevail and it would ultimately be the end of all Filibusters. They were trying to take a scalpel to the rule (it is nowhere in the constitution or in law) rather than a meat cleaver. However, once the courts got involved I think the whole concept would have fallen.

One more point Hags - even 60 votes wouldn't be "complete control". One can't count on either party being consistently unified. There are several Republicans the Dems can pick off. There are a dozen or so right/center Democrats that can't be relied upon for "progressive" legislation.

Take some asprin + Alka Seltzer in the morning. You'll feel better eventually.

Jim G. said...

Hags drink? Heaven forbid.

Good idea, let's just wait until the Conservatives are back in power.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.