Filibusted

If you thought the hard-fought battle to reform our nation’s woefully inadequate health care system was already won, think again. Republican Scott Brown has vowed to cast the decisive, 41st vote against the Democratic health care bill in the Senate, should he upset Democrat Martha Coakley in a special election in Massachusetts next Tuesday. That this coup de grâce could come from a seat once held by the late Ted Kennedy, health care reform’s greatest champion over the last several decades, only adds insult to injury.

There is more to this story, however, than just the special election. As columnist Gail Collins pointed out in today’s NY Times, the way the Senate currently does business is fundamentally flawed.

As we all learned in civics class, every state has two senators, regardless of population size. Hence, there are 100 senators in all with 40 of them representing America’s 20 least-populated states. According to Collins, those states account for only 10.2 percent of our total population.

However, if the senators from those states stick together, they only need one more vote to invoke a tactic known as the filibuster. This strategy exploits a Senate procedural rule requiring 60 votes to end debate and bring legislation to a final vote. As long as 41 senators refuse, they can effectively kill any bill they don’t like by extending debate indefinitely.

For fellow film enthusiasts, this parliamentary maneuver probably brings to mind the principled stand taken by Jimmy Stewart’s character in the 1939 classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. These days, however, the mere threat of a filibuster is enough to get the job done. So, you won’t see Minority Leader Mitch McConnell collapsing from exhaustion on the Senate floor after delivering a moving oration about the evils of “socialized medicine” anytime soon (as amusing as that spectacle would certainly be).

There’s something inherently wrong with a system that allows senators representing little more than 10 percent of our population to subvert the will of an overwhelming majority of Americans. I implore the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration to put an end to this chicanery by amending Rule 22 regarding the Precedence of Motions. Revising this requirement is necessary to ensure that the American people’s voice is heard in Washington and would also help cure the legislative paralysis currently crippling Congress.

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4 thoughts on “Filibusted

  1. “Hard-fought battle to reform our nation’s health system”. You really believe this? Are you some kind of paid health care “consultant”?

    • Yes, I do believe it because I’m part of the hard-fought battle to reform health care in America. And I’m proud of that fact. Our current health care system is bankrupting our economy while providing inferior service and coverage, compared to other western democracies.

      Until we shift away from the fee-for-service model, health care conglomerates will have a perverse incentive to prescribe expensive but dubious procedures to line their own pockets.

      And for the record, no. I’m not a paid health care consultant, nor am I sure what that position would entail.

  2. While it is possible for the 20 least populated States to band together and stall legislation that is hardly the case of what is happening in today’s Senate. I can assure you that Republicans are representing much more than 10.2% of the population.

    Perhaps you should read the history and constitutional aspects of the filibuster so that you may see the fallacy of your argument. Originally the filibuster was allowed if 1 senator was opposed. That one senator could continuously debate and effectively kill a bill. Now it takes 40. The design was to ensure a the minority opinion could be heard.

    As long as the two political parties place their party ahead of their constituents the filibuster is needed. Yesterday I read a post from a left leaning MSM political pundit that said a Representative had the right to vote any way he liked. Then stated the people could vote him out at the end of his term. This mindset is ruining America and the very constitution that makes America the envy of the world. We are a representative democracy but when the representative forgets the people and votes for the political than that is not very representative now is it?

    Bottom line that line by Collins was a poor attempt at comparing apples and oranges to receive a desired outcome. You bought it hook line and sinker.

    • I’m familiar with the history of the filibuster as well as it’s intended purpose. Ensuring that the minority’s opinion is heard is a far cry from bringing the wheels of government to a screeching halt. What the Republicans are doing is completely irresponsible, and it effects far more than just health care. Obama’s nominee to head the TSA (Errol Southers) just withdrew from consideration because Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) is holding up the confirmation process for purely political reasons. And that is only one example. The GOP’s obstructionist strategy is essentially a prolonged temper-tantrum (they’re going to take their ball and go home).

      Republicans are playing a sick, cynical game here. If you think they have the best interests of our nation in mind, you’re delusional. Their only concern is taking back power so they can do the bidding of the lobbyists they’re beholden to (conservative, activist judges on the Supreme Court just proved this by allowing unlimited, corporate, campaign contributions). The easiest way for the GOP to return to power is to prevent or disrupt any attempts by Democrats to improve our economy with a campaign of lies and disinformation (as they did with health care). Then Republicans will continue to blame Obama for their own intransigence.

      Finally, if you think America is still “the envy of the world” you’re dreaming. That was ten years ago. Much has changed since the Bush Administration squandered the prosperity of the Clinton years. Face it, we live in a multi-polar world and are interconnected with other nations whom we must respect, not insult. Maybe someday, we’ll be the “envy of the world” again, but not if we follow the Republican’s game plan (or lack thereof).

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