The bizarre Senate filibuster rule needs to be consigned to the Trashbin of Crappy Ideas. I got confused trying to make sense of the Wikipedia article about it. Which is why the filibuster is so wrong: democracy should be straightforward, transparent, easy to understand.
Elections are won by the candidate who gets the most votes. Control of the House and Senate is determined by which political party has the most candidates elected. But in the Senate, majority rule is dumped in the crapper.
Nowadays it takes 60 votes, rather than 51, for the Senate to do anything significant, because Republicans have decided that obstructionism is their best bet for making sure Obama is a one-term president.
To hell with what's best for the country. To hell with majority rule. The Republican party is determined to use the filibuster to stop just about everything Obama and the Dems propose.
Most recently: a well-qualified nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, filibustered. A well-qualified nominee to be a federal judge, filibustered. Not to mention all the policy proposals, such as an extension of the payroll tax holiday, filibustered.
Only in the United States is such insanity tolerated. Most countries have a parliamentary system where if a party gains control, the executive and legislature branches get to pursue the policies they campaigned on. If voters don't like the results, they get voted out in the next election.
But somehow this country tolerates minority rule in the Senate. Ezra Klein tells us how little of a minority it takes to stop anything happening in Congress.
Gail Collins joins the anti-filibuster ranks today, and brings some numbers.
U.S. population: 307,006,550.
Population for the 20 least-populated states: 31,434,822.
That means that in the Senate, all it takes to stop legislation is one guy plus 40 senators representing 10.2 percent of the country.
In practice, the filibuster isn't used by a coalition of tiny states representing 10.2% of the population. But it could be!
And that's a reminder that the Senate is already undemocratic. Adding the supermajority requirement is like sprinkling tacks on a road that's already filled with potholes.
What really irritates me is how Senate Democrats play along with the Republicans in keeping the filibuster rule, even as they castigate the G.O.P. for using it.
Because they want to be able to be equally obstructionist if the Dems lose control of the Senate. And that's a terrible reason to do something: not because it's a good thing to do, but just to be able to do what someone else did, even though it was wrong when they did it.
Plus, Democrats are much worse at obstructing than Republicans are. Witness this wishy-washy quote in a Politico piece about recent Republican filibusters. The story starts out with:
The White House and Senate Democrats are issuing a blunt warning to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans: You live by the filibuster, you’ll die by the filibuster.
Yet then we read:
If they return to the minority, Democrats say they won’t arbitrarily filibuster legislation because of a pure political vendetta.
...Asked whether he’d do the same to McConnell if Republicans take the majority, Reid said tersely: “We’ll see what happens next year.”
Wow. That must terrify Republicans.
Democrats say "We'll play nice, even though the Republicans didn't. Maybe we'll use the filibuster like the G.O.P. did; maybe we won't." And so the Senate continues to fiddle, while the country burns.
In some ways, literally.