Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Busting The Busted Buster

I share Rachel's concern, as should we all. To require sixty-percent majority for all important legislation is to turn democracy on its head. It's to subvert and pervert the Constitution, and to make governance virtually impossible. It's to paralyze us while our competitors around the world are sprinting. It's to give to the most hidebound, the most ideological, the least open to new ideas, the power to stop everything. And it's to institutionalize the rankest of hypocrisy, as those whose mantra just political moments ago was "Up or down vote, up or down vote, up or down vote" do the opposite of everything they claimed was important. For the people.

This is much more than the final nail, for that has already been driven in. This is lowering the coffin into the ground, covering it with dirt, and walking away, leaving the grave unmarked and without a map back.

But soft! Our nation's foremost Constitutional scholar, Dan Quayle, has weighed in; he's said the founding fathers didn't have in mind the idea that things could pass with a majority of votes. (Funny they didn't say so or put it in, y'know, writing.) Not 51 votes in the House, not 51 votes in the Senate, he potatoed. He was half right, though.

For something as undeniably critical as this, I hate to end on a facetious note. So let's hear from Tom Harkin, who has that thing so hated by the RWS™: knowledge. And credibility. Who began calling for change when he was in the minority, like the current abusers (but unlike them in consistency and integrity and commitment to the common good):
... I'm going to reintroduce that again in January. And people are going to say I only worry about this because I'm in the majority. But I come with clean hands! I started when I was in the minority!

The idea is to give some time for extended debate but eventually allow a majority to work its will. I do believe there's some reason to have extended debate. If a group of senators filibusters a bill, you want to take their worries seriously. Make sure you're not missing something. My proposal will do that. It says that on the first vote, you need 60. Then you have to wait two days, and on the third day, you need 57 votes. And then you need to wait two days, and on the third day, it's 54 votes. And then you'd wait another two days, and on the third day, it would be 51 votes.

Makes sense to me. And if not, then let's get back to this. (Well, in that clip it's the good guy who's filibustering, an entirely foreign concept, these days.) Let's make the bastards talk round the clock, till they're too hoarse to be heard. Let's let the public watch the spectacle and know who is really doing what. And to whom.


  1. Gee, doesn't represenative democracy suck...
    Nice proposal, maybe y'all could close Git-Mo and repeat Dont Ask Dont Smell finally...Oh, those only require an Executive Order? Never Mind.
    Funny how the Reagan Tax Cuts/Bush Tax Cuts Desert Storm/Iraqui Freedom, Welfare Reform, Medicare Part D, DOMA passed without any problems..
    As usual Sid, your 360 degrees off, the number required to pass a bill should go UP as time passes, makes sure only bills with broad appeal(i.e DOMA) make it and encourages com-promise...

    And since y'all love ad-homo attacks so much, Tom Harkin is one of the least effective Senators in the history of the Senate. Makes Dan Quayle look like friggin Steve Hawkings, and he's got an Axis 1 Diagnosis if you know what I mean...


  2. "Representative." Good one.

    "Funny how..." Better (because, you know, that's the point...)

    "360 degrees off." Best.

  3. PS: I'll say this: Tom Harkin went down in my eyes with his support of "alternative" medicine. In that, he's an idiot. However, just as you've occasionally made sense (one has to work hard to find it), even US senators can't be wrong in everything.

  4. I'd like to take Rachel's challenge by sending in a 2005 e-mail from President Obama himself which is copied/pasted below with salient points in ALL CAPS.
    From: senator_obama@obama.senate.gov [mailto:senator_obama@obama.senate.gov]
    Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2005 11:02 AM
    To: Hoven, Randall M
    Subject: Message from Senator Barack Obama

    Dear Randall:

    Thank you for your letter. I appreciate hearing from you.

    I recognize that the filibuster can be used for unfortunate purposes. However, I am also aware that THE FOUNDING FATHERS established the filibuster as a means of PROTECTING THE MINORITY FROM THE TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY -- and that protection, with some changes, has been in place for over 200 years.

    Again, thank you for writing. Please stay in touch.


    Barack Obama
    United States Senator

    1.) Obama obviously supports the filibuster (as do I) because it prevents 51% from forcing tyrannical legislation upon the other 49%. The thought of either Republicans or Dems passing whatever they wish with a simple 51% majority is absolutely terrifying to me.

    2.) Obama, a constitutional law professor, is incorrect in stating that the founding fathers included the filibuster in the constitution. That's disheartening that he didn't know that.

    3.) A few points I'd like to add to Rachel's assertion that the filibuster was used only once in the 1950's.
    3a.) It was first used in 1837
    3b.) It was used (unsuccessfully)by DEMOCRATS in an attempt to stop the Civil Rights Act of 1964



  5. PT: ever take one of those tests where among the choices was "True, true, and unrelated"? Your points are a little like that.

    First of all, Rachel's challenge was to come up with a new name.

    Second, I've seen the Obama letter, too (it contains more than you included, but nothing relevant.) If it's authentic it's surprising, vis a vis the founding fathers. Nevertheless, supporting the idea of filibuster is not the same as justifying its use as wielded currently, by the Rs, in unprecedented ways. Nor would I take the letter as authentic without question, since the guy who posted it didn't demonstrate an actual copy, while claiming his rendition was real.

    That filibuster has been used before is not to justify the de-facto change to supermajority requirements in all things. The founding fathers did specify when supermajorities were required, and it most surely was NOT as used now.

    I guess I'd have to listen to Rachel again to see if she really said, in a context that you imply, that it was used only once in the 50s. In any case, back then, it was an actual filibuster, with the requirement of continued holding of the floor. So now it's not only being abused in ways never before seen, it's not even necessary to get up and talk.

    If you really believe the majority ought not have the power to pass laws, then I guess you're in the wrong form of government. And if Obama really said what he is claimed to have said, he is, too.

    Perhaps, though, the operative word is "tyrannical." If so, I'd guess his definition would differ significantly from yours.


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