This article actually began as an open mic night topic last week (as you will be able to tell by the format I offer it in), when I initially read the story. As I began thinking about it, I realized that it was something that was going to take a little bit more time to cover than was usual for an open mic topic. That is mostly because I want to expand the discussion into a broader one, focused on more than just this one instance. The article that I am linking to below is written by Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico. This freshman Senator is setting his sights on eliminating the the ability for the Republicans to block legislation through the use of the filibuster in the Senate. And his rationale for doing so is the Constitution. Now I am not a Constitutional scholar, but I understand it pretty well and I have studied it extensively, both as a supporter and a detractor. And what I see from the Senator is yet another attempt by members of government to find a “loophole” to accomplish whatever they want to accomplish, our freedom be damned…
Before I get any further into my thoughts on this, I will let you read some of what Senator Udall had to say in a article he wrote for the Huffington Post:
The Need for the Constitutional Option
…But in the past year I have witnessed an assembly that seems more dysfunctional than deliberative — where partisan rancor and the Senate’s own incapacitating rules often prevent us from conducting our business. Many of my colleagues and I were elected to the sound of a call for change. The American people sent us to Washington to put partisanship aside and take the country in a new direction. Unfortunately, the self-imposed rules that govern the Senate have stood in the way.
Given that fact, I commend Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for all that he has been able to accomplish in an atmosphere of obstruction and inefficiency. But the system in its current form leads to legislation that is diluted and vulnerable to being held hostage by a single senator. At worst, the Senate has become a graveyard for good ideas. It is for that reason that I stood before the Senate yesterday to reflect upon our constitutional obligations to this institution and to the American people for whom we serve. (pdf)
We need to take a good look at the rules that govern the Senate and get the business of the American people back on track.
While I am convinced that our inability to function is our own fault, we have the authority within our Constitution to act.
Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution states, “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings…” Yet, at the beginning of the 111th Congress, unlike in the House of Representatives, there was no vote on a package of rules that would govern the body for the two years that comprises a term of Congress. As a result, 96 of my colleagues and I (three senators had an opportunity to vote on the last change to the rules in 1975) are bound by rules put in place decades ago and make conducting the business of the Senate nearly impossible.
Specifically, under the “filibuster rule” (Rule XXII), it is not possible to limit debate, or end a filibuster, without three-fifths, or 60, of all Senators voting to do so. In the past several years, the use — and abuse — of filibusters by both parties to obstruct the Senate from functioning has become the norm. But it hasn’t always been this way. Such cloture votes used to occur perhaps seven or eight times during a congressional session, but last Congress there were 112 – most occasioned simply by the threat of a filibuster. The use of the filibuster today dominates the Senate’s business at an irresponsible level, threatening our ability to operate.
Read the rest of this appeal from Senator Tom Udall at the Huffington Post: Sen. Tom Udall: The Need for the Constitutional Option
I have to say that at its very heart, it sickens me to even read this drivel. I am so tired of these Senators and Congressmen living in a fantasy world of what they are sent there to do. Allow me for a moment to pick apart his twisted reasoning. He claims that they were sent to Congress to “put partisanship aside and take the country in a new direction”. OK, I will accept that perhaps the country sent you there because they would like to put partisanship aside, but the only direction that they wanted you to “change” was to veer away from George Bush. In any direction. They didn’t care. Just away from Bush. They did not send you there with a mandate to institute a far left progressive agenda, as you found out two weeks ago in Massachusetts. He then follows that up with “Unfortunately, the self-imposed rules that govern the Senate have stood in the way.” Here is where I say complete and utter bullshit.
What got in the way was that the members of the majority party in the Senate had zero interest in actually putting aside partisan politics. They point to party line votes, but forget that the entire process leading up to that vote excluded members of the GOP. There was more legislation in this Congress last year than in any other in history. So it doesn’t appear to me that rules stood in the way of “doing the people’s business.” There were very few instances where a filibuster stood in the way of passing a bill. Let’s not forget that the Democrats have had complete control, including the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster (I know Ray tries to dispute this by pointing to the Independents, but they caucused with the Democrats, voted with the Democrats, and for all intensive purposes are Democrats). If a filibuster could have stood in the way, they wouldn’t have passed the stimulus or the Health Care Bill. And of course the GOP all voted against both bills, they were never included in the formulation of them. What the Democrats wanted was for the GOP to keep their ideas to themselves and vote yes when told to. That isn’t rules getting in the way. That is extremely poor leadership by Harry Reid and the other leading Dems in the Senate. Another article that I read on this said, “One Senator is trying to change that insistence, and put the focus back on governing rather than the crippling rules which have led, in a pretty direct way, to American decline.” (this article is linked to at the bottom) So the filibuster is the reason for the American decline? Damnit, if only we had known we could have solved the economy troubles, and everything else with a simple Senate rule change. Then what the hell did we spend the $2 Trillion for you dumbasses?
But the point is that both the President in his State of the Union lecture and the Democrats like Udall are attempting to paint a very different picture of what is happening in the Senate than what is really happening. It is a blatant attempt to twist reality, to twist the truth into something that it is not. And the only purpose of doing this is to sway public opinion using false pretenses. Because swaying the public means using populist appeal to transform the government in a way that benefits the twisters. If they can get enough people to believe that the GOP is the obstacle to fixing America’s ills, then they can make horrible changes to the rules with public acceptance that they are doing so in order to “better serve the people.” Again, complete and utter bullshit.
So the answer to Democrats not having the votes to shove their agenda down our throats is to change the rules so that they can continue to shove the agenda down our throats. This is nothing more or less than using popular appeal to rig the game in their favor. And you know what will happen after they are done? They will pass all their bullshit agenda items. And you know what comes next? The will get voted out of power. And then is the big finale. They will use populist appeal to change the rules BACK to using the filibuster as soon as they see it to their advantage to do so. Because we have seen this game played before.
Don’t forget that whole mess in Massachusetts I told you about a couple of weeks ago. When Mitt Romney was Governor, the Democrats in the State government were worried that he might appoint a Republican to the Senate if Ted Kennedy were to pass. So they immediately got together and voted to change the rules so that the Governor would not have the power to appoint a new Senator. That was in 2004. In 2009, Ted Kennedy dies. But wait, the Democrat Governor, Duval Patrick, cannot appoint a Democrat to fill the seat and maintain the 60 vote majority in the US Senate! What to do!?!?!?!? They got together and changed the rule back, allowing Patrick to appoint Paul Kirk. The liberal agenda is saved! You see, rules don’t work in your favor? simply convince the voters that you need to change the rules. It is easy to use populist appeal.
Add to this the current climate around the health care bill. Now that Scott Brown has won, they know that they cannot stop a Republican filibuster on the bullshit health bill they came up with. So what answers are they looking at? Any answer but the ethical one. The number one option being looked at is a round-about reconciliation vote, using a loophole in Senate rules in order to usurp the spirit of what they are supposed to do. Second best option? Have the House pass the Senate version so that it doesn’t have to go through the Senate again and then pass another bill or two to amend that signed into law one. Similarities between these options? They are both a peek into the mind of a US Senator. The rules are made to be worked around however needed in order to do what we want to do.
So where does all of this lead me to? It leads me to Black Flag’s door. Because all of this makes a great point for him and those who believe as he does. He consistently tells us that our vote is a waste. He consistently tells us that we are doing nothing more than legitimizing government’s crooked actions. And this sure does bolster his argument doesn’t it?
No matter what we do or who we vote for, the result is the same. We get a federal government that is not interested in serving us. They are serving themselves. And to prove it, they give us all these examples where rules are not really rules. Whatever rule you think is in place to limit the power of government, it is but a quick populist appeal away from being removed as an obstacle for them.
This is not just an argument that bolsters Black Flag’s position on voting. It is an argument that bolsters both JAC and my arguments for a strong foundation for a new form of leadership. This is why, no matter what we come up with, it must be built upon a strong moral platform based on the concept of individual liberty and non-initiation of violence FIRST, and allowing everything else to spin out from that foundation. As much as the founders spoke about liberty and believed in it, they did not make it the true foundation of our Constitution. And they certainly didn’t make a non-initiation of violence on non-violent people a founding principle.
If we don’t start with a solid foundation, we are destined to go down the same path. A weak foundation is what has eventually led the American decline, dear readers, not crippling rules in the US Senate.