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Harry Reid: Old Dog, New Tricks?

May 18, 2012

This is the best news out of the US Senate in months:

“An angry Harry Reid took to the floor Thursday and demanded changes to the Senate’s hallowed filibuster rules, siding with junior Democrats who have sought to substantially weaken the powerful delaying tactic.”

The “hallowed filibuster rules” fall into that category of “rules that are okay if they’re infrequently used”—as was the case from the early 1800s until the late 1900s.

By Joshua Green’s calculation, here are some of the ways Barack Obama’s current term in office would have been different if the Senate operated under majority rules:

“Had the filibuster not applied, the United States would have a market-based system to control carbon emissions, which would limit the damage from global warming, vitalize the clean technology sector, and challenge other large polluters like China and India to do the same. The new health care law would have a public option. Children of undocumented immigrants who served two years in the military or went to college could become US citizens. Women paid less than their male colleagues because of their gender would have broader legal recourse against their employers. Billionaires would not be able to manipulate the political system from behind a veil of anonymity.

Dozens of vacant judgeships would have been filled. The Federal Reserve would have operated with a full slate of governors, including Nobel Prize-winning economist Peter Diamond. Elizabeth Warren would be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, not a candidate for the Senate. And Mitt Romney would be paying a higher tax rate than the 13.9 percent he shelled out in 2010, since a provision to end the carried-interest tax break wouldn’t have died in the Senate.”

If Barack Obama gets re-elected in November, and if Democrats retain control of the Senate, and if Reid can persuade his caucus to make filibuster reform a party-line vote, then there’s a chance the next Senate will actually be able to, you know, pass laws and confirm appointments (just like it says in Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution).

P.S.  You’ll notice there’s no mention of “hallowed filibuster rules” in the Constitution.  That’s because the framers intended the Senate to operate on majority rules, except in cases where they specifically stated otherwise (e.g., 2/3 requirement for approving treaties).

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One Comment
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