What goes around… ending the filibuster
In 2005 Republicans considered changing the filibuster rules in the Senate to their own benefit and the detriment of the then minority Democrats. Democrats were outraged they cried foul. Sure, Democrats were, at the time, acting as pure and simple obstructionists, however, they were right in their complaints. The minority party should have some mechanism to slow down or stop legislation, (or a judicial confirmation), that they feel is seriously flawed. The 60 votes required to stop a filibuster is a good thing. It protects the minority from becoming irrelevant.
Flash forward to 2011. Democrats have controlled Congress for four years, (yes 4, taking the majority in both houses in 2006), presiding over a nation that was booming when they won control and leading it into the greatest economic recession in 80 years. Just two months ago they lost the super majority in the Senate and were decimated into the minority in the House.
Hanging onto the Senate by a thread they know they have little ability to stop a filibuster of any kind. So what are they to do?
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has a flashback. He recalls the 2005 attempt to end the filibuster of judicial nominees and decides if they spin it right, this could be the answer. Instead of admitting they want to end the filibuster, they’ll claim they are just amending the filibuster rules. Just trying to make things fair for the party struggling to hold on to a majority.
Under the proposal sponsored by Udall, Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Tom Harkin (D-IA) the minority party can go ahead and filibuster but a simple majority can end the filibuster at anytime.
Brilliant idea! Every left-wing blogger and MSNBC reporter (oh yeah, no difference between the two is there?) jumped on that bandwagon. Why? Simple as the majority needed to stop the filibuster, the majority party wants to be able to end the debate at will.
We’ve all witnessed just how cowed Democrats are. One only need recall the Star-chamber-like health care reform process. The fact that not one Democrat read the bill and how supposedly pro-life Senators rolled over their votes based on promises they knew were worthless.
SETTING BAD PRECEDENCE
Let’s flashback. If you’ve bothered to read anything I’ve written before you’ll know I’ve criticized Republicans for wasting time, effort, and treasure on unlimited investigations into the Clintons. No sooner were the tables turned than Democrats began calling for investigations and the impeachment of Bush.
Politics in the 21st century has become tit-for-tat. In 2005, Republicans had not yet realized that fact when they first toyed with the concept of the “constitutional option”. Contrary to Huffington and other bloggers, Republicans, at the time, were not talking about changing the rules in every instance. They were trying to end Democrat obstructionism in the process of judicial nominations. That said, I still believe Republicans invited a future Democrat majority to twist and use this against them.
PROCEED AT YOUR OWN PERIL
Should Democrats go forward and implement the “Constitutional Option” as they define it? Making it the standard rule, effectively ends the filibuster. It empowers Democrats to steamroll over the Republican minority in the Senate. However, where there is a powerful weapon there is powerful recoil.
I believe liberals live in the present. They don’t look back and they don’t look forward. They can only see what is at hand and what looms on the immediate horizon. That’s how a liberal Washington Post blogger, Ezra Klein, could be confused about how long ago the American Constitution was written and admit he can’t understand it (I suspect he never really tried to read it.)
Apparently he did not attempt to read the 2500 page health care law either. I read both and I can tell you the Constitution is much more easily understood. In fact, the U.S. Constitution is perhaps the most plainly written legal document in the United States. But I digress.
(Interesting aside: Ezra revised the editorial after taking flack for his observation that the Constitution is “more than 100 years old.” He revised it to read “Written more than 200 years ago” then later got more specific writing, “written more than 223 years ago.” I’m sorry but I think Ezra is an idiot. I say this with no fear he’ll ever read my words because I’m certain he’d stop reading after becoming confused during the 1st paragraph.)
Both Democrats and Republicans need to carefully consider their own reactions whenever they consider changing rules. Rules designed to cripple the opposition are double-edged swords. Sure in the short-term the “Constitutional Option” will quash Republican opposition to the will of the liberal majority, but the majority party never maintains that status very long. At least not in the modern era.
We live in times as volatile and liquid as summertime in the Caribbean. In 2008, Democrats held the biggest majority any party has ever enjoyed. In the Senate a super majority – filibuster-proof, veto-proof. In the House bullet-proof. A year later they lost the super majority but still maintained a historic majority. 2010 saw that change completely. Democrats lost their huge majority in the House, becoming the minority, and in the Senate they barely held on. Dropping 8 seats to 51 Democrats bolstered by two left-leaning Independents.
What will 2012 bring? It all depends. Will Democrats undermine the economy as they have done and pin it all on Republicans? Will Republicans compromise or even yield to the Left? Or will Republicans redeem themselves by passing solid and fiscally sound budgets? Can Republicans actually revive the U.S. economy with only a single house of Congress?
Should the tea party movement continue to have a strong voice in Washington and should the Republicans remain true to their promises, it is likely the Democrats will lose their Senate majority. If and when they do, suddenly, they will be pushing for power-sharing and restoration of the filibuster. If Republicans are smart, they should not yield.
If Democrats dare to remove the super-majority required to end a filibuster, Republicans should in turn use this against Democrats when the tables are turned. Democrats have not shrunk from bashing Republicans for every offense, real or imagined, during their reign as majority. I hope that when the power shifts in the Senate, Republicans will have grown a few cajones, and will beat the Democrats to pieces with their own rules.
After-all, by that time it will have become precedence.