Friday, July 16, 2010

Reconciliation Follies/Superbill

Politicians may be, by nature, craven and cowardly (and remember, I like pols, but c'mon...).  However, they don't have to be stupid.  And, really, there's no other word for what the Democrats are doing to themselves by ducking a budget vote and thereby losing the chance to do a reconciliation bill.  From the reporting, it's a bit difficult to figure out who is at fault -- the House blames the Senate, the Senate blames the House, yadda yadda yadda.  So I'll suggest some obvious suspects: Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Rahm Emanuel, and Barack Obama.  It's their job to understand which votes are harmless to duck, and which ones have too much substantive importance to let irrational fear take over, and too coordinate the two Houses of Congress.  Weak move, folks.  Please explain it to them, Matt Yglesias:
Shame on everyone involved for thinking that a single vote will be swung by this goofy procedural nonsense. The apparent belief of backbench House members that the American people understand or care about these procedural gimmicks is bizarre. It was bizarre during the “deem and pass” controversy of January and it’s bizarre today. 
Now, all that said, the other obvious thing here is that there's actually no good reason for the current practice of linking the Get Out Of Jail Free Card -- that is, the one major bill a year that's filibuster-free -- to the budget process.  That is, there's a historical reason, but no strong logical reason.  That's why I recommend the simple reform of de-linking them, by creating a new Superbill: one bill every year that would need just a simple majority to cut off debate.  The filibuster allows minority intensity to be heard; Superbill would allow an intense majority to get their way.  And by de-linking from the budget process, Superbill avoids the kinds of messy policy outcomes that the Byrd rule creates. 

As I've said before, there are all kinds of reasons, both practical and theoretical, for the filibuster to survive.  Good reform should, in my view, respect the principle that individual Senators should be influential, and all party minorities far more influence than they have in the party-ruled House, but should also allow the Senate to function more smoothly than it currently does.  For legislation, the best solution to that is: Superbill!

1 comment:

  1. In that guest blog, you said that "I'd retain holds on executive branch nominations, but eliminate filibusters on them by reducing cloture to 51." How would this be any different than what we have now? Holds are taken seriously now because one Senator objecting to a unanimous consent agreement can eat up quite a bit of floor time, as it takes days for cloture to ripen and another 30 hours for the post-cloture debate time to run out. Whether cloture requires 51 or 60 Senators would make no difference if it still takes days for each nominee to be approved.

    About the filibuster, I'd like to hear your thoughts on what the point of it is. Is it important for the minority to be allowed unlimited debate? Or is it important to allow the minority to stop legislation that is not supported by a super-majority of Senators?


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