Monday, July 05, 2010

Pelosi: "End the Filibuster!"

Demosthenes: "Damned Straight!"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has some advice for her Senate counterparts: Try majority rule for a change. Pelosi, in an interview with the Huffington Post, called for an end to the filibuster, which she labeled "the 60-vote stranglehold on the future."

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that "the Senate has to go to 51 votes, and not 60 votes."

The filibuster, which was not an original element of the Senate, has evolved over the body's history and has only recently become the upper chamber's standard operating procedure. The Senate was designed as a majority-rule institution that allowed for extended debate. Under the Constitution, the vice president is empowered to break 50-50 ties. Such a clause would be wildly out of place if the framers intended for a 60-percent majority to be required.

Senate Democrats are eying January as the time to reform the filibuster, when the Senate convenes a fresh Congress and votes to establish rules. New rules can be approved by a majority vote if the presiding officer, Vice President Joe Biden, allows the vote to go forward. Liberals in the Senate worked hard to reform the filibuster between the 1950s and 1970s, eventually succeeding in reducing the threshold from two-thirds to 60. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Rules Committee, is holding hearings looking into the future of Senate rules and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has endorsed some sort of reform.
Pity this couldn't have happened last year; it would have meant a whole hell of a lot for Americans' health. Then again, it probably should have happened last January; it was pretty obvious even then that the Republicans would be playing the obstructionist game, and that the Dems needed to seize any advantage they had.

As it is, I fear that this will run up against Democratic losses in the Senate; pundits will argue that "the public has said that they want the Republicans to have a greater say"; and Dems are nothing if not knock-kneed when been criticized by pundits. The time to take the advantage was back when they were ascendant.

Still, it's good that Pelosi has gone on the record on this. Considering how effective she's been when compared to her Senate counterparts, her endorsement is a big deal.

(By the by, happy belated Independence Day. I wasn't in a position to wish it until now. But I do wish it, and do still believe that America is an experiment that is worth its tribulations.)

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