Thursday, March 3, 2011

Senate Reform Is Really Not Dead...

...because Republicans are insisting on using the current rules to make the Senate dysfunctional. The latest is a pledge from eight Republicans -- Coburn, McCain, DeMint, Ensign, Johnson, Paul, Lee, and Ayotte -- to place a hold on every bill that doesn't meet five (apparently fairly vague) criteria.

Look, the point of holds is to allow individual or small groups of Senators a chance to work out their differences with a bill. Senators support holds because they each want to retain the ability to influence each and every bill. Holds allow Senators to cut deals that protect narrow interests.

What these Senators are saying, explicitly, is that they just won't allow any bill to move if they don't like it. Period.

That's asking the Senate to run by consensus, and it just won't work, certainly not in an era of partisan polarization.

Holds are an informal mechanism; there's nothing in the Senate rules that require Harry Reid to respect this sort of thing. Of course, if he doesn't, Republicans can retaliate...but there's really nothing they can do that they aren't doing already. In practice, a hold is simply a threat to object to a motion to proceed to a bill by unanimous and therefore to force the Senate to chew up time (by requiring, ultimately, a cloture vote on the motion to proceed). Fine. They're pretty much doing that anyway on most bills, and certainly on any bill that conservative Republicans oppose.

During the 112th Congress, of course, this sort of thing doesn't matter much; nothing is passing unless it gets through the Republican House, and therefore all this sort of thing does, if it happens, is to prevent Democrats from forcing votes on things that wouldn't be becoming law anyway. But while Senators have an interest in preserving their capacity for individual influence, they have an even greater interest in making sure that the chamber is at least minimally functional. I don't think a true 60 vote Senate does that, and I'm certain that a Senate which allows permanent holds on any bill that doesn't meet ideological litmus tests certainly doesn't.

In other words, Senate reform is going to happen, one way or another, before very long. On the outside, we're not going to have consecutive Congresses with unified government (House, Senate, presidency all the same party) without getting major reform by the end of the second of those Congresses. The only questions are what reform will look like (how majoritarian?) and whether it will happen somewhat earlier than that. One thing's for sure: the more that the minority party pushes, the sooner the majority will choose to act.


  1. On the outside, there's weren't not going to have consecutive Congresses with unified government (House, Senate, presidency all the same party) without getting major reform by the end of the second of those Congresses.

    Wow. Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

  2. Oh, it wasn't *that* bad, was it? I guess so. Edited; thanks.

  3. "The Wisconsin state Senate passed a resolution ordering the 14 Democratic senators who fled the state two weeks ago to return to the Capitol by late Thursday afternoon or face being taken into custody by police.

    "We simply cannot have democracy be held hostage because the minority wants to prove a point," Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said. "They have pushed us to the edge of a constitutional crisis.""

  4. Aidan, nice contrast.

    Thank you.

  5. If the U.S. debt is at such a crisis point, then why did House GOP Vote to approve Corporate Welfare Subsidies for five Big Oil Corporations -- And on the other hand, Vote down legislation to Recoup $53 Billion Dollars of taxpayers' funds! Funds sorely needed to stimulate the economy. It is a well known fact by Legilators and not the mass public, however, that these Big Oil Corporations pay little to no taxes at all. So what could be the reason that GOP find it necessary to subsidisize wealthy oil corporations and at the same time defunding Medicare, Medicaid, educational and WIC benefits for everyday Americans. This they do while steadfastly refusing to fund infrastructure projects which will create jobs, jobs, jobs? Oh! -- That's right, the GOP's policy of giving tax breaks and tax cuts to the rich creates jobs, but there don't seem to be many around!

    And why are GOP Governors accross the United States trying to eliminate and abolish unions? Could this be the Reason?

    "Big Oil & Pharmaceutical's Goal for America: From Democracy to Dictatorship"...

    Wake up America!

    And why is this not relevant news information but the sad breakdown of Charlie Sheen is?


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