Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Health care reform shorts:
Republican abuse of the filibuster

Because we are constantly told it takes 60 votes to pass anything (like health care reform) in the U.S. Senate, it would be easy to assume that the filibuster has always worked as this kind of obstacle, allowing 40 percent plus one members to stop any law.

But that is just bullbleep! The following chart shows the frequency of cloture votes (formal votes to end debate -- end the filibuster) that minorities (of whichever party) have forced on the Senate since 1959.


Though the use of the filibuster to block majority-approved legislation has been rising throughout the period, it only really took off in the last 2 years of Bill Clinton's presidency -- and then again when Democrats took over the Senate in 2006. The last Congress (the one represented by the huge spike on the right) set a record for filibusters, even though the minority Republicans had George W. in the White House to backstop them with a veto. This Senate, the 111th, will set a further new record.

According to Steve Benen from whom I got this item,

There's nothing routine about this distortion of institutional constraints. It's an abuse unseen in American history.

Part of restoring democracy in this country will have to be curbing the Senatorial privilege to gum up the works for majorities. This was accomplished once in my lifetime, in the late 1950s and early 1960s in order to pass civil rights legislation over the opposition of Southern segregationists.

Lyndon Johnson cut the cloture vote requirement down from 66 to the current 60 and broke the power of Senate committee chairmen in that era. The current Republican Party is not really so different from those old fossils. As usual, progress in this country amounts to a struggle to extend democratic (small-d) rule.

Chart from Norman Ornstein.


Darlene said...

The system is broken and must be fixed.

I just read you tribute to a very nice lady on your previous blog. Your parents were fortunate in having her as a neighbor.

Cloudia said...

Excellent post. Please check mine tomorrow!

Aloha, Friend

Comfort Spiral

Related Posts with Thumbnails