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US Senate Temporarily Returns To Majority Rule

July 26, 2012

Breaking News! Senate Follows Constitution!

You’d never guess from the way this Washington Post story starts off, but yesterday was a remarkable day in the US Senate.

First, the Senate took a simple majority vote on two bills, just the way the Founders intended.  It’s a sign of how bad the casual acceptance of filibuster-as-standard-procedure in the Senate has become (and how bad political journalism has become) that it’s not until paragraph 12 that Lori Montgomery gets around to mentioning it:

“The votes capped a surprising day that began with McConnell announcing that he would waive procedural hurdles and permit the Senate to hold an up-or-down vote on the measure, in exchange for an agreement by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to call a vote on the Republican bill, as well.

McConnell acknowledged the unusual nature of his decision — Democratic aides could not recall another occasion when McConnell permitted a simple majority vote on a contentious issue.”

It should be an outrage that the Senate does not operate by simple majority rule on all votes except those specified in the Constitution.  Professional journalists in a democracy should convey that outrage in every story they write about undemocratic customs and tactics like the filibuster.

Second, Harry Reid was able to unite the Democratic caucus to vote for allowing taxes to rise on income above $250,000 a year.  (The only two Democratic “no” votes were Joe Lieberman (CT) and Jim Webb (VA) neither of whom is running for re-election…and at least one of whom is likely polishing his resume for a post-Senate career on K Street.)  That’s still a long way from breaking Grover Norquist’s hold over the Republican Party with his No Tax Pledge, but it’s an encouraging sign that Democrats in an election year are willing to take—and to win—a vote to raise taxes (by default) on the wealthy.

Third, Massashusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown voted against the Democratic bill…and against the Republican bill which would have extended the Bush-era tax rates for all levels of income.

Brown is in a tight re-election campaign against Democrat Elizabeth Warren.  There may be some tactical advantage for Brown in being seen as favoring tax hikes for all Massachusetts voters…but it’s not immediately apparent what that advantage might be.


From → Politics

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