Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Filibuster blag

Counter to most liberal bloggers, I don't really think that the filibuster is unconstitutional in concept. I think the present version of it is pretty plainly intolerable--40 senators should not be able to veto something the majority wants--but I think that reforming the filibuster is a better solution than eliminating it completely.

The reason why is because I do think that there should be a mechanism for protecting minority rights in the Senate, but I don't think it should come at the expense of the entire ability of the majority to make policy. Elections are supposed to have consequences, after all. But I do think there's a solid argument that large majorities might lead to a scenario in which unwise legislation is rammed through without much of a debate, or that something might be plowed through in a moment of intense emotion that needs more consideration or that ever shouldn't happen at all, such as the limits on bonuses for AIG executives. Right sentiment, wrong idea.

So my solution has always been to allow a minority to block cloture, but not to allow it to be infinite. Put a clock on it. If 40 senators want to block cloture to have more debate on an issue, they should be able to do that, but only for, say, six months. Then, the bill goes up for a majority vote. If the minority was able to convince their colleagues and the country that a bill is a bad idea, then it should fail. If not, then it will pass. It seems to me that this sort of reform enhances the debate rather than diminishing it, and it seems a lot less prone to abuse than the alternative. After all, if my system were in place and Mitch McConnell were to filibuster every conceivable thing out there, it wouldn't make much sense since it would just postpone everything by six months. And the Republicans aren't going to convince everyone of everything in six months.

Of course, I don't think that filibuster reform is likely in the immediate term. But eventually Republicans are going to want to govern again (right?), and while the Democrats didn't filibuster everything that moved during the Bush years, they absolutely will when the Republicans eventually take over the Senate after having gotten the same treatment from them in the past, and since the Republicans have established a new 60-vote norm for anything, they'll have only themselves to blame.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.