Tuesday, December 15, 2009

United States Senate: more offense or better defense?

In our system according to the current rules, the House of Representatives is run by the Speaker of the House almost like a dictator. The majority party elects their leader, and then that person and their team dictates what the rules are, what will and won't be addressed, and so on. In the Senate the rules allow for every Senator to have unlimited debate on virtually any issue unless a supermajority decides to move on. Right now 60 votes is deemed the proper level. It used to be 67, but that proved to be too tough to control the chamber.

So even though Democrats control 60 seats in the senate which represents way more than 60 percent of the population, they have to struggle on each issue to get procedural clearance.

Is this good or bad? It depends on whether it is more important to do good or to prevent the bad that could happen.

It's a tough value judgement because leaving the rule the way it is will almost ensure that any policy produced will wind up being a compromise rather than what anyone truly thought was best.

But conversely, this 60 vote barrier will give assurance to anyone one senator that a majority trying to do something distateful would have a giant hurdle to overcome.

On balance, I think it better to keep the current filibuster rules.
If your ideas are truly great, eventually you should be able to convince enough people, including 60 senators to vote for it. There is more danger that a something bad could be done especially in an "emergency" that might do so much damage, it couldn't be reversed.

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