Archive for the ‘Senate’ Category

Carly Fiorina: California Job-Outsourcer*

September 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Who is Carly Fiorina?

* Due to the tragic shooting of Rep. Gifford and 19 other people in Tuscon, I have decided to  retroactively edit this post to say “job-outsourcer” instead of “job-killer.”  I regret the use of those words.


VP Biden and Rep. Barney Frank Sound Off on Filibuster

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment

(courtesy: Daily Kos)

Judging by the media coverage, it seems like Republicans have achieved their 41-59 “majority” but with the nature of the current Senate rules and the unprecedented use of the filibuster by the Republicans, they’ve gained tremendous leverage.  There are ways to terminate the filibuster through a majority vote (not supermajority), but I don’t think it’ll be done as of this moment since it’ll be seen as sour grapes.

Still, filibuster reform should be given a hard look by the Democrats in the future, and recently, two major Democratic figures sounded off on the undemocratic nature of the filibuster.  A few days ago, Vice President Biden lamented the unprecedented use of the filibuster when he said:

“As long as I have served, … I’ve never seen, as my uncle once said, the constitution stood on its head as they’ve done. This is the first time every single solitary decision has required 60 senators,” Biden said. “No democracy has survived needing a supermajority.”

And yesterday, Rep. Barney Frank called for the elimination of the filibuster and it’s abuse by the Republicans:

“It is time to shut it down,” Frank said. “God didn’t create the filibuster, it’s part of the Senate rules.”

“We have a serious constitutional problem. There has been a de facto amendment of the U.S. Constitution in an anti-small-D democratic direction.”

Senate filibuster rules aren’t fixed in stone and have been changed in the past.  In fact, the 60 vote requirement only existed since 1975.  Even then it’s use has never been abused as it is now as evidenced by this graph that the filibuster has a  90% delay rate.  The Senate should look into curtailing filibuster abuse and find a way to fix it.

The Senate is Broken, Fix the Filibuster

January 5, 2010 Leave a comment

A new report and this accompanying graph from the People for the American Way details the unprecedented Republican use of the filibuster since the Dems took back the White House.

The Republicans have basically imposed a 60 vote standard on every piece of Senate action when the filibuster was only meant to be for extraordinary circumstances.  We’ve come to a point in the Senate when a 60-40 vote is considered a “razor thin” margin.

If the Senate is to become functional again, the filibuster needs to be reformed and history does show the filibuster can be changed.  In 1975, the votes needed for cloture to a filibuster was moved down from 67 to 60.

Three quarters of a century later, in 1917, senators adopted a rule (Rule 22), at the urging President Woodrow Wilson, that allowed the Senate to end a debate with a two-thirds majority vote, a device known as “cloture.” The new Senate rule was first put to the test in 1919, when the Senate invoked cloture to end a filibuster against the Treaty of Versailles. Even with the new cloture rule, filibusters remained an effective means to block legislation, since a two-thirds vote is difficult to obtain. Over the next five decades, the Senate occasionally tried to invoke cloture, but usually failed to gain the necessary two-thirds vote. Filibusters were particularly useful to Southern senators who sought to block civil rights legislation, including anti-lynching legislation, until cloture was invoked after a fifty-seven day filibuster against the Civil Right Act of 1964. In 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths, or sixty of the current one hundred senators.

President Obama has also taken notice of the dysfunction in the Senate when he spoke to PBS’ Jim Lehrer.

MR. LEHRER: How do you feel about the way the 60-vote filibuster rule has been employed on the health-care debate?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I am very frustrated.

I think that right now that’s the way things are operating. And we’ve had to make sure that we fight through those issues. I think Harry Reid has done a very good job grinding it out.

But as somebody who served in the Senate, who values the traditions of the Senate, who thinks that institution has been the world’s greatest deliberative body, to see the filibuster rule, which imposes a 60-vote supermajority on legislation – to see that invoked on every single piece of legislation, during the course of this year, is unheard of.

I mean, if you look historically back in the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s – even when there was sharp political disagreements, when the Democrats were in control for example and Ronald Reagan was president – you didn’t see even routine items subject to the 60-vote rule.

So I think that if this pattern continues, you’re going to see an inability on the part of America to deal with big problems in a very competitive world, and other countries are going to start running circles around us. We’re going to have to return to some sense that governance is more important than politics inside the Senate. We’re not there right now.

A majority vote (51 votes) for filibuster reform could be done through the nuclear option or at the start of a legislative session via a procedural rule change.  Filibuster reform is desperately needed to bring order back to the Senate.  Filibuster reform could involve actually making the filibuster more painful to invoke such as actually making it an actual filibuster through non stop debate a la Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or by moving down the number needed to invoke cloture.  Come what may, reform needs to happen.

Republicans Know They’re in the Minority, Right?

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment

The Hill has an article up about teabagger conservatives complaining about the Sen. Minority Leader’s Senate strategy with regards to health care reform:

Aides to McConnell called Limbaugh’s show to explain their tactics, but the conservative pundit did not seem to buy it.

“They are up there adding amendments. There’s no question they’re adding amendments to it. McConnell’s office did call here and say that they are opposing this, so I don’t know if adding amendments is a strategery [sic] to bollix it up and slow it down. But I — I disagree. They just need to say no; there’s nothing wrong with saying no to this!” Limbaugh said Tuesday.

The Tea Party and the conservative-leaning Social Security Institute sent out 1.5 million e-mail messages on Monday asking recipients to urge GOP senators to take a tougher stance in opposition.

“Shame on Republican Senators!” said the e-mail alert. “They are paving the way for ObamaCare to be enacted into law this year because they want to go on Christmas Vacation.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.  Sen. Reid and the Democratic Leadership could simply cancel recesses and table amendments if the GOP pulled more of their stunts in the Gregg obstructionist manual.

The truth of the matter is the Senate minority only has so much  power to stop the majority’s agenda especially with a filibuster proof Democratic majority.  The Democrats just have to work out the differences within the party, and then once agreed as what is look to happen with health care, passage will be virtually assured.  Not only that but there will almost always be some Republicans who are amenable to compromise.  Simply put, the higher the legislative majority, the easier to pass an agenda, and it’s very hard for a minority to do anything about it.

Health care will pass soon; that, we know and then, it’s off to the next item on the agenda.