Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Gentleman Will Sit! The Gentleman Is Correct In Sitting!

Norm Ormstein has a column on reforming the filibuster that I think is a must-read.

Time was, a filibuster meant Senators reading from Betty Crocker and the Encyclopaedia Britannica for hours on end. These days the rules have changed and we no longer have real filibusters, we only have threats of filibusters. I never understood why that was. Ormstein explains:
Senate rules put the onus on the majority for ending a debate, regardless of how frivolous the filibuster might be.

If the majority leader wants to end a debate, he or she first calls for unanimous consent for cloture, basically a voice vote from all the senators present in the chamber. But if even one member of the filibustering minority is present to object to the motion, the majority leader has to hold a roll call vote. If the majority leader can’t round up the necessary 60 votes, the debate continues.

OH. Ormstein suggests a tweak, force the fillibustering party round up its votes instead of the other way around:

For starters, the Senate could replace the majority’s responsibility to end debate with the minority’s responsibility to keep it going. It would work like this: for the first four weeks of debate, the Senate would operate under the old rules, in which the majority has to find enough senators to vote for cloture. Once that time has elapsed, the debate would automatically end unless the minority could assemble 40 senators to continue it.

That sounds fine but personally, I think if the minority party wants to filibuster legislation then they by God should work for it. And if that means reading from Aunt Martha’s Cookbook or the Oxford English Dictionary or the collected works of Wikipedia, so be it. Ormstein seems to agree, and I think it’s well past time that the Senate did that. Enough with this obstruction; the filibuster may be useful to protect the minority’s voice but it shouldn’t be wielded like a cudgel because some assholes want to “break” the president.

And this is basically what I told the DSCC when their fundraiser called my house to ask for a ludicrously insane donation. As I always do when they call I say no thanks, I’ll support individual candidates or organizations but not the party because the party doesn’t deserve it. They got a huge mandate in the last two elections and failed to act on it. They offered weak, watered down legislation and their lame excuse is that they had to because they lacked a filibuster-proof majority? Well then fix the filibuster, you idiots! End of story.