Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Democrats allow themselves to be held hostage

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Democrats have been whining about how some Republican senator is putting a hold on all possible nominations. Of course the Republicans are being petty and hypocritical, and everything else. And apparently the Democrats are going to use it to attack the Republicans. You know what else the Democrats should do?


As much as I think the Senate rules are terrible, I also think they’re a cop-out. In other words, when the government really wants to get something passed, it gets passed. So here’s a historical fact: how did the filibuster first get changed? Well, back in 1917, a couple of Senators who didn’t want America to enter WWI were filibustering the escalation with Germany. So what did the Senate do? Well the House of Morgan had a lot of money invested in an Allied victory, so the filibuster rules were changed, we armed those ships, and 200,000 Americans died protecting those loans. (See this for a great story about Robert La Follette’s attempt to stop the war.) And back in 2008, no one seemed to be worried about a filibuster of the bank bailouts.

Now, of course, it’s a matter of expanding health care, or getting decent people on the National Labor Relations Board, or preventing global warming and, well, the Democrats are just powerless. Utterly powerless. Of course, 50 senators could gather in a Starbucks, vote for 30 minutes, and have all of this stuff passed.* They could give us the public option, and cap and trade, and EFCA, and literally create a new social contract with American citizens. They choose not to and I’m not sure why I should forgive them for that.

*The Senate is only bound by the Constitution, which doesn’t say anything about a filibuster. Moreover, the Supreme Court has ruled that neither the Senate nor the House can prevent future incarnations of itself from passing a law. In other words, just because in 1975, the Senate said you needed 60 votes to pass a law, does not mean that in 2010, the Senate has to pay any attention to that. There is literally nothing the Republicans could do if 50 Democratic senators just decided they wanted to change the rules right now.


Written by Peter Wirzbicki

February 6, 2010 at 14:14

Posted in Uncategorized

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