What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

March 10th, 2010at 07:46pm Posted by Eli


Messrs. Barry Friedman and Andrew Martin have A Cunning Plan to overcome the Republican filibuster:

[T]he Democrats need to take three steps: First, they should announce the order in which they will take up their legislative agenda. Next, they should declare that they will no longer be using dual tracking, so that the Senate will hear just one issue at a time. Finally, Democrats should require those who want to filibuster legislation or appointments to actually do so, by holding the floor, talking the issue to death and bringing everything to a halt.

The new-school filibuster would preserve minority rights in the Senate, while imposing significant costs on obstructionist members, changing the calculus that causes today’s logjam. Stuck on the Senate floor, filibustering senators couldn’t meet with lobbyists or attend campaign fund-raising events; they couldn’t do much of anything, really, until their filibuster ended.

Getting rid of dual-tracking would require the minority to make careful choices about what to obstruct, and when to obstruct it. As Senator Bunning’s unsuccessful solo stand against jobless benefits showed, even Republicans have limited tolerance when it comes to stalling legislation for reasons that lack popular support.

After all, filibusters historically broke when public opinion went against the Senate minority. If the Democratic leadership eliminated the dual-track system, serial, single-issue filibusters would give us an opportunity to see where the country actually stands on issues like health care reform and financial regulation — and where the Senate should stand.

First of all, my understanding was that the rules change that lowered the filibuster threshold from 67 to 60 votes also eliminated the requirement for the minority party to actually perform the full-blown cots-and-phonebooks Mr. Smith-style filibuster.  But even if it hadn’t, this strategy sounds a lot like handing your kidnapper a gun and hoping he shoots himself with it.

The Republicans have absolutely no compunction about obstructing everything, the media has no particular interest in accurately reporting what’s going on, and consequently the public backlash Friedman and Martin are counting on would simply never happen.  Either that or the Republican spin (Healthcare reform is a socialist government takeover!  Financial reform/tax increases/environmental regulation will take away your jobs!) will triumph and make their obstructionism look like a heroic effort to Save America.

I would much rather find ways to neutralize the Republicans, not further empower them in hopes that they will commit suicide by overreach.  It took six years for that to work the last time, and the damage was incalculable.  Why would we want to do it again?

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Media,Politics,Republicans

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