Friday, December 24, 2010

Quote Of The Day

Caption: This is a chart of cloture motions asked for and acted on in the U.S. Senate between 1919 and 2010. In the last two legislative sessions (2006-2010), they have reached record proportions. Clearly, the current Senate rules are becoming a problem.

Image credit: Chart from this table at the Senate's web site by Cujo359

Jon Walker, on all those "political reality" considerations Washington, DC is always so concerned about:
This time with my family just reinforces my firm belief that pursuing good progressive policy meant to help people will become good politics. People don’t care about floor speeches, the silly rules that prevent bills for passing, CBO scores, or show votes for amendments that everyone in Washington knows aren’t going to pass. Most people vote for politicians hoping they will make good decisions that will result in improved lives and communities, not for someone they think will make a great floor speech on C-SPAN 2 before an empty chamber.

Dear Congress, Almost No One Knows or Cares About Your Kabuki
Count me as one of those people. I'm an engineer, or a computer scientist, depending whether we're talking generalities are specifics. I only learn about congressional procedure out of self-defense when I have to argue with fools who like to make excuses for the party or politicians they favor. The plain fact is that very few of the procedures Congress uses are defined, or even implied, in the Constitution. They are rules that each legislative body has agreed to use while conducting business. Those rules must be subject to change if they aren't working for the country's citizens anymore.

As I've pointed out before, there were ways that the Senate could have gotten around Republican filibusters, had the Democratic leadership wanted. No one talked about the "nuclear option", did they? No one floated the idea of letting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan hang fire while we waited for the Republicans to stop obstructing the process at a near-record pace this session, nor did they mention disallowing all GOP-sponsored amendments until they agreed to limit themselves to a certain number of silent filibusters. This much I know about Senate procedure: if the Majority Leader doesn't want something to make it to the floor, it won't. That would include all those earmarks that Republicans say they're against, but really live by as much as Democrats do.

The logical conclusion is that this state of affairs was just fine with the Democratic leadership. It was only in the lame duck session, after they had lost the House in the last election, that they got serious about doing anything that was the least bit progressive. Vice President Joe Biden let the cat out of the bag toward the end of last year. In effect, he said that if the Democrats didn't have enough Senators to override cloture, we voters just need to elect more. As the election results proved, this was a stupid idea from the word go. Why? Read that quote again. We don't care about procedures, particularly when many of us know that those procedures aren't set in stone. The ultimate message of this election, no matter whether it was Teabaggers or progressives who were sending it, was "Get it done".

We wanted results, and all we got were excuses. Sometimes, failure is punished in DC. For the Democrats, at least, this was one of those times.

UPDATE: Added the cloture motions chart from this table at the U.S. Senate's web site.

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