The filibuster has transformed The Senate into an undemocratic, unrepresentative body of The People.
Imagine if our Presidential elections had the following rule, unless a President was elected by at least 60% of voters, no new president would be elected.
Would we consider that reflective of a true democracy?
So how can it be considered that bills that have over 50% of The Senate’s vote fail and that as little as 41% of the vote wins in killing a bill?
Think of how much profound change and progress could be taking place if we only needed 51 votes in The Senate to pass legislation.
That’s why I think the time has come to go nuclear.
When Republicans controlled Congress earlier in the Bush Admin, Senate Democrats used the filibuster to block some of the most extremist candidates the Bush Admin was trying to push through into becoming federal judges. Bush and The Republicans were furious about the principled use of the filibuster so they gave the Dems an ultimatum.
Either they stop using the filibuster as much as they were or they would employ what they called, “The Nuclear Option”, procedural changes that would not allow filibusters to be made on judicial nominees.
This caused enormous alarm among the historically invertebrate Democratic leadership and they agreed to let objectionable extremists become judges for life as long as the Republicans let them filibuster once in a while in the worst cases.
Fast forward to today, when far more important changes to this nation are in the hands of a huge 60 member majority for the Dems and how do they deal with the much more egregious overuse of the filibuster by The Republicans?
They shrug their sholders, give into those Senators who are tools of the very corporations affected by the bill, pay bribes to the Senators who engage in extortion and try to put lipstick on the legislative pigs they shepherd out of their chambers, squeezing from their forced smiles, “It’s a great start!”
The time has come to return democracy to The Senate. The filibuster is flatly undemocratic. Now, the weak kneed ones like Harry Reid in The Senate would run around waving their arms and shrieking at the scary idea that democracy might continue even under Republican majorities in Congress and fight to keep The Senate in eternal gridlock (which after 2010 I’m afraid it will be, The Dems aren’t likely to have a larger majority in the future).
But those Senators who have a fear of democracy are in the wrong business. Imagine the sweeping changes and progress that could be made to this nation if we only needed a simple majority in the Senate? Isn’t that worth accepting that Republicans would have the same right under a democracy when they get control. Isn’t that what elections are for?
The key point here is that if they put aside their fears of democracy and accomplished so much under true democracy, the Repubs would be out of power in the Senate for at least a generation and if they returned after that, society will have evolved so far from where they are today, they’d never maintain power if they didn’t reflect the new America.
I would argue that it would be a better reign on unpopular legislating and give the Dems the tools to reverse bad legislation quickly.
A little background, David Dayen wrote this on FDL:
In the 110th Congress, 70% of major bills were filibustered, as opposed to 8% in the 1960s. Political leaders just didn’t see the filibuster as an impediment a few decades ago.
He also referred to this explanation of how the Nuclear Option works:
The nuclear option is used in response to a filibuster or other dilatory tactic. A senator makes a point of order calling for an immediate vote on the measure before the body, outlining what circumstances allow for this. The presiding officer of the Senate, usually the vice president of the United States or the president pro tempore, makes a parliamentary ruling upholding the senator’s point of order. The Constitution is cited at this point, since otherwise the presiding officer is bound by precedent.
A supporter of the filibuster may challenge the ruling by asking, “Is the decision of the Chair to stand as the judgment of the Senate?” This is referred to as “appealing from the Chair.” An opponent of the filibuster will then move to table the appeal. As tabling is non-debatable, a vote is held immediately. A simple majority decides the issue. If the appeal is successfully tabled, then the presiding officer’s ruling that the filibuster is unconstitutional is thereby upheld. Thus a simple majority is able to cut off debate, and the Senate moves to a vote on the substantive issue under consideration.
The effect of the nuclear option is not limited to the single question under consideration, as it would be in a cloture vote. Rather, the nuclear option effects a change in the operational rules of the Senate, so that the filibuster or dilatory tactic would thereafter be barred by the new precedent.
This is the kind of change we need now. We have a window here where Dems should maintain majorities for years and an enormous amount could be accomplished. Meanwhile, Pres. Obama could fulfill his promise and ambition to be a modern day FDR and make the kind of big course corrections needed to tear this nation away from its growing plutocracy and back to a true democracy that serves its majority of citizens.
I know it’s scary but i believe that the prospect of becoming a truly progressive 21st Century democracy outweighs the horror of democracy being practiced in the Senate.