2013/11/22

Fainting couch over loss of the filibuster


Y'know, Dana Milbank, as a Washington Post editorialist, gets very well compensated for doing what a blogger does. One would think his job would involve just a bit of research. Even a minor blogger like me (I blog when I gol durn jolly well feel like it) knows that the filibuster is not in the Constitution. Yet he states:

“Congress is broken,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday before holding a party-line vote that disposed of rules that have guided and protected the chamber since 1789.

*Sigh*, no Dana, in order for the filibuster to have been around since 1789, it would have to have been established along with the Constitution and it wasn't. According to Wikipedia “The first Senate filibuster occurred in 1837.” It was only a theoretical possibility up until then. Frankly, when you look at the legislation it's been used to block, it's a wonder it's survived up until now. The cloture, the method of breaking a filibuster and allowing the Senate to get on with its business, was not developed along with the filibuster. It was developed in 1917, nearly a century later.

The filibuster is nothing more than a Senate rule. It's not a Constitutional Amendment or some other kind of sacrosanct procedure that should be preserved at all costs.

But Reid’s remedy—calling a simple-majority vote to undo more than two centuries of custom—has created a situation in which the minority leader, Mitch McConnell (Ky.), is expected to use the minority’s remaining powers to gum up the works, and to get revenge when Republicans regain the majority.

Milbank at least gets that right. The Democrats ended a “custom,” not anything that was codified in legislation. This tells me that Milbank isn't stupid enough to think that the filibuster is part of the Constitution. It suggests that he's simply pandering to what he sees as an ignorant audience.

The really annoying thing is this:

In fairness, Milbank’s column acknowledges Republican “abuse,” and I’m glad. But he and other critics of Senate Democrats have offered nothing constructive on what the majority party was expected to do in the face of unprecedented abuses.

Y'know, it's funny, but somehow, the British Parliament and the US House of Representatives seem to get along just fine without a filibuster. And as the Daily Kos article says

As if it could get any worse! As if Republicans haven't already gummed up the gears to the point [where the Senate has] ground to a halt. Take just this week. There's significant bipartisan support for both of the sexual assault amendments to the defense authorization bill—a bill you'd think Republicans would want to get passed, and soon. But no, they've refused to allow votes on those amendments...

Well, the right-wing blog Weasel Zippers recommends denying Democrats the tradition of “unanimous consent” until the filibuster is restored, but that sounds to me like a recipe for even more loss of the Senate minority's powers to the point where they'd become completely irrelevant. And as the piece points out, it's been quite clear for some time now that were the Republicans to regain their majority status, the filibuster would quickly become history anyway.


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