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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Slate: David Weigel- Filibuster Reform Kicks Open the Coffin and Returns From the Dead: Senators Have a Right to Make Assholes Out of Themselves

This piece was originally posted at FRS FreeState Plus

I wouldn’t mind having a super majority requirement to confirm executive appointments in the U.S. Senate, if the leaderships in both parties were responsible and not blocking appointments because they are being made by a president from the other party. Or the people are that are being appointed are not the people who a group of senators would’ve appointed for that position. Because the Senate doesn’t decide who gets appointed just who gets confirmed. The Senate doesn’t get to decide when the President can appoint and who they can appoint. That is the sole job of the Chief Executive of the United States.

Senators are supposed to judge nominees qualifications and character for the jobs that they are being appointed to. Not if the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Streets likes them, or are they are far enough to the Right to Left for them. Ideally I would eliminate the filibuster all together and get rid of the rule that allows for senators to talk their, well mouths off, but make assholes out of themselves and start reading from a phonebook simply in order to hold the floor. But replace with a motion to table that could only be made by the Leader or Minority Leader.

But they could only table final votes on the final legislation. Once debate is concluded and all amendments have been voted on, including the minority substitute offered by the Minority Leader, if one if offered. Then the Leader or Minority Leader could table the final bill and then the leader who didn’t table the bill could appeal to the rest of the Senate to overturn the motion to table which would take sixty votes to pass.

But this sounds like common sense where neither party would have a clear partisan advantage as a result, whether they are in the majority or minority. And we know the Senate isn’t run by commonsense, but assholes who couldn’t see the big picture even if it was a movie and only look at short-term political interests. Which is why something like this would probably never happened. Because it would mean doing what is in the long-term interest of the Senate.

The problem even with my reform is that you have a Republican minority led in the Senate that feels their job is to do the work of a faction in the Republican Party that wants to beat President Obama and the Democratic Senate at all costs and not allow for them to have any success at all. Just wait it out until they can find a way to impeach and convict the President in Congress or wait until the next presidential election. And not allow for the President and the Democratic Senate to do anything basically including appointing his members of his administration so they can do their jobs and run the administration.

Which was the strategy of the Senate Republican Leadership in the last Congress. And the Congress before that led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Remember what is Mitch McConnell remembered for saying in the 111th Congress his first speech on the Senate floor in that Congress that his number one priority is to defeat President Obama. And they’ve moved away from that a little in this Congress as the President has become more popular. So maybe the idea would be to eliminate the filibuster all together and replace it with a motion to table.

Senate Democrats aren’t completely innocent here. With Senate Leader Harry Reid not allowing for amendments on key pieces of legislation that passes out of committee and even tends to have bipartisan support in committee. Because he doesn’t want his vulnerable members up for reelection in this Congress to have to take tough votes that could hurt them in the election. But if people don’t want to vote on controversial items and are simply just interested in getting reelected, than they shouldn’t be serving in Congress at all.

What we need instead is for a Congress both the House and Senate to actually serve the country and address key issues of the country that the Federal Government needs to respond to. Where politics isn’t eliminated and it shouldn’t be, but where it doesn’t dominate either. Where there’s a clear relationship between the majority and minority in both chambers. The majority sets the agenda and decides what issues will be debated and voted on. And then has a responsibility to write legislation to address those issues.

But where the minority in both chambers as the loyal opposition, gets to weigh in and offer ideas and policies to address those same issues, including their own bills that are relevant to the issue that the majority is addressing. Which would probably mean the majority offering a lot of legislation that the minority doesn’t like and probably having the votes to pass it. Especially in the House, but where the minority would have the opportunity to amend what the majority is trying to do and even replace that bill with their own bill.

Need the same thing in the Senate, but still keep the super-majority requirement on controversial legislation where it is clear only the majority party supports it. And if neither side has the votes to pass exactly what they want, leaders come together and work out a final compromise that could pass with a bipartisan majority. This is what would happen if commonsense was running Congress, especially in the Senate. But again this institution is run by assholes, people with egos the size of continents where all members have equal say in what can get voted on and where they can kill legislation by themselves.

Commonsense simply doesn’t govern the U.S. Senate, it hasn’t really since the late 1990s or so. We’ve been in this divisive national malaise where both parties are only looking to capitalize and take full-advantage of it to meet their short-term interests. Otherwise fixing Congress and how it operates, especially the Senate which is supposed to be the upper chamber of Congress where cooler heads are supposed to prevail, would be fairly easy to fix. And things could get back to normal where both chambers legislate, where both parties offer and vote on their ideas on issues. And come together when they don’t have the votes on their own.

ABC News: ABC Evening News, January 11, 1978

ABC Evening News Anchor Frank Reynolds-
This piece was originally posted at FRS Daily Press on WordPress: ABC News: ABC Evening News, January 11, 1978

The economy was probably the biggest story of 1978, because that’s went it went down hill and didn’t come back until late 1983. With high unemployment, high interest rates, high inflation, and energy shortage and a recession in 1979-80 and all these things started in 1978. It was called the Great Deflation that started with the 1973 oil embargo that led to energy shortages. America was getting out of Vietnam and jobs were no longer being created from that war. Economic growth slowing down, unemployment going up. As well as the Federal budget deficit, interest rates and inflation. Even if the economy looked solid in January, of 78 with fairly low unemployment that was about to change very quickly by the spring that year.

As far as the smoking report, I’m not a fan of the nanny state and anyone who is familiar with by blogging knows that. But I am a big fan of education and commonsense regulation and that is what the Carter Administration was doing here. Tobacco obviously comes with serious health risks even if you don’t smoke, but hang out with people who smoke around you. So of course Americans have a right to know what they’re putting in their bodies before they do that, along with having the right to make the decision themselves what exactly they should put in their bodies. So of course no to prohibition when it comes to tobacco and no to the nanny state in general. But Americans have a right to breathe clean air and not to have to pay for other bad decisions. Which is where commonsense regulations and taxes come in.

What was otherwise a pretty bad year politically for President Jimmy Carter and his administration with the economy about to tank, which by itself may have cost President Carter his reelection, was actually pretty good for him in foreign affairs. With the Camp David Accords that he and his administration helped negotiate between Israel and Egypt. A peace agreement that got Egypt to recognize the only Jewish country in the world in Israel and the only Jewish state in the entire Middle East. That is surrounded by big Arab countries like Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and a big Persian country in Iran and a big Turkish country in Turkey. And that peace agreement almost forty-years later has held ever since. President Carter also got the Panama Canal Treaty passed by the Senate as well.

1978, the start of the second year of the Carter Administration that had an economy that was about to go south. Rising interest rates, inflation, rising energy costs and an energy shortage, but they did manage to get some important legislation through Congress. An energy bill and they got the airline industry deregulated which created a lot more competition there. They kept us out of war, they kept the deficit down even dealing with a very Progressive if not New-Left Democratic Congress that wanted all sorts of new spending and new taxes to finance their new programs. So President Carter and his administration, actually managed to get a lot done in their four years.