60 Is The New 50
by Todd Beeton, Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 02:12:45 PM EDT
Did you know it's undemocratic to pass legislation with 50%? So says Sen. Susan Collins whose very relevance depends on the 60 vote threshold in the Senate for passage of anything. Remarkably, she thinks that imposing a 50%+1 threshold for passage of any of President Obama's agenda is "undemocratic" and she denies that the nation, with, yes, a 50%+1 majority, ratified then candidate Obama's agenda in November.
From The Huffington Post:
"Reconciliation should not be used to impose a major policy change. It's unfair to those who hold a minority view," Collins added.
Isn't that undemocratic? Collins was asked why she and a handful of senators should wield so much power over the nation's policy.
"I don't really think I have all that much power but I'm glad you think so," she said, laughing.
"I don't think it has anything to do with the power structure of moderates," she added. "People want to see healthcare reform, want to see us deal with major issues, but not in an undemocratic fashion. I think people want to see fuller debate and deliberation and more involvement by the minority."
But isn't the need for 60 votes undemocratic? Didn't the nation have a full debate, followed by an election in which people voted for major change?
"I disagree totally with that," said Collins. "I do not believe the American people voted to short circuit debate and prevent people with a minority view on both sides of the aisle from having the ability to amend a bill."
Certainly minority rights are important but the idea that the filibuster was designed to impose a new absolute 60 vote threshold above which every piece of legislation needed to rise is preposterous. And certainly I didn't hear Senator Collins waving her arms about minority rights when she was in the majority and the Democratic minority used the filibuster a quarter of the number of times the Republicans used it during the last congress.
Matt Yglesias summoned some eloquent outrage on the topic last month:
...there's been over time a steady increase in filibustering. Democrats were feeling chastened after the 2002 and 2004 elections, so filibustering dipped somewhat in those congresses while still staying high above the levels that has persisted in the 1980s. The result now is that you've started hearing talk about how you "need 60 votes" to pass something in the Senate, rather than saying that you need 50 votes and also that a minority might engage in the extraordinary measure of filibustering.
None of this has ever been a good idea. But when it was genuinely reserved as an extraordinary measure, it was a bad idea whose badness could be overlooked. But as it's become a routine matter, it's become a bigger and bigger problem.
Update [2009-3-25 18:27:35 by Todd Beeton]:Oh and you recall the 8 Democratic Senators who co-signed a letter with Republicans urging the maintenance of the filibuster on big policy initiatives? Three of them -- Evan Bayh, Tom Carper and Blanche Lincoln -- wrote an OpEd today in which they accepted as a baseline the premise of the 60 vote threshold
The stakes are too high for Democrats to fear a policy debate. Such debates produce better legislation. On nearly all important votes, a supermajority of 60 senators will be needed to pass legislation. Without Democratic moderates working to find common ground with reasonable Republicans, the president's agenda could well be filibustered into oblivion.
You see, just like Susan Collins, their relevance depends on this threshold remaining in place. It's no accident that 8 Senators signed the letter -- that's precisely the difference between the number of Dem Senators we have (pending Franken's arrival) and the number needed to deliver a majority (50 votes + Biden's tie break.) Here's some more rubbish being spewed by these "moderates":
Many independents voted for President Obama and the contours of his change agenda, but they will not rubber-stamp it. They are wary of ideological solutions and are overwhelmingly pragmatic. Many of them live in our states and in the states of the other senators who have joined our group.
Are they calling President Obama an ideologue? I love how only self-professed "moderates" are capable of pragmatism and everyone else is ideological. As Jane wrote: "What a load of horse shit."
But perhaps the most galling thing contained within this oped is their reasoning behind what they call their "constructive, not obstructive" goals: what happened to Democrats in 1994.
In 1993, the three of us, as much younger politicians, stood with great expectations as the last Democratic president was sworn in with big plans, a head of steam and a Democratic Congress ready to begin a new progressive era. In less than two years, it all came crashing down, with disillusioned moderate voters handing the GOP broad congressional victories in 1994.
Wow. There really are no words.