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August 20, 2009

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The Senate is already lopsided by nature of the fact that half the country has four times the power in the Senate as the other half. That's right, the least-populous 41 states, which comprise half the US population, get 82 senators, while the other half, the 9 most-populous states, get only 18 senators. Where is the justice in that? The filibuster only makes it worse. Maybe the Senate should just be abolished.

The list of issues Moran was intent on seeing passed with only a 51 vote majority during the Bush Administration is, I venture to say, limited. It wouldn't have included all the times Bush used the reconciliation process.

I'm sort of still in shock from reading Greenwald (boy, did he return with a bang) and the supporting Hamsher material tonight. Rahm not only playing anyone credulous about the basic proposal coming from the WH by using the PO to buy off Phrma, AHIP et al. from lining Repub coffers, but using the 'need for bipartisanship' as the cover for following through and axing it?

Why I continue to take anything discussed on policy or first-order political terms as anything other than a superstructure over the real wheeling-dealing in Washington I will probably spend the rest of my life revisiting and wondering about.

Correct way to understand Rahm Emmanuel (NSFW):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSAu9bEkMbk

The defining characteristic of the right in this country is projection. And here Moran is doing it. The party exploiting the senate cloture rules by filibustering everything is calling an attempt to find a procedureal loophole allowing passage of a bill by a simple majority "a clear abuse of the process." It would be funny if people weren't dying.

A few thoughts....

1) With sixty Senators, any attempt by Democratic leadership to get around the filibuster is about circumventing members of their own caucus, not the Republicans, who don't even have enough votes to mount a filibuster on their own. (Just an observation; obviously not here or there on larger issues of Senate rules)

2) I'm not sure that the Democrats' sixty votes are particularly meaningful when it comes to actually changing Senate rules. I believe that under Senate rules, you need 67 votes to amend Senate rules. There is, however, a long-standing argument (put forward by Sen. Byrd among others) that Constitutionally speaking, Senate rules can be adopted by a simple majority (as indeed the first rules of the Senate were adopted). (Here's a .pdf of an article about this.) In any event, the sixty-vote threshold isn't important under either of these avenues.

3) Let me second Mike's recommendation of the latest Glenn Greenwald piece. Here's the link. Greenwald does an excellent job of putting his finger on the dynamics of the healthcare "debate" in Washington. As Greenwald points out, the White House is not even trying to strong-arm centrists, but they are strong-arming progressives. And this is entirely because they, and the rest of the Democratic establishment, want the bill that insurance and pharmaceutical industry wants. At the end of the day, this is all about cash in campaign coffers. Among other things, Greenwald is writing against all the excuse-making from establishment-oriented pundits like Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein, whose creative defeatism deserves all the criticism it can get.

The Greenwald piece is a devastating indictment of President Obama and the Democratic leadership's integrity.

But I think it reflects most poorly on Obama, who, it seems, sold those who voted for him a bunch of slogans and doesn't have it in him to effect real change.

Greenwald's conclusion:

"The Obama White House isn't sitting impotently by while Democratic Senators shove a bad bill down its throat. This is the bill because this is the bill which Democratic leaders are happy to have. It's the bill they believe in. As important, by giving the insurance and pharmaceutical industries most everything they want, it ensures that the GOP doesn't become the repository for the largesse of those industries (and, converesly, that the Democratic Party retains that status).

"This is how things always work. The industry interests which own and control our government always get their way. When is the last time they didn't? The 'public option' was something that was designed to excite and placate progressives (who gave up from the start on a single-payer approach) -- and the vast, vast majority of progressives (all but the most loyal Obama supporters) who are invested in this issue have been emphatic about how central a public option is to their support for health care reform. But it seems clear that the White House and key Democrats were always planning on negotiating it away in exchange for industry support."

Just as devastating I thought to President Obama's integrity was the link to David Corn's post, President Obama, Where Are Those C-Span Cameras?.

It questions the behind-the-scenes deal the President cut with Big Pharma.

Not sure if they conducted it in Dick Cheney's old bunker.

This Hamsher piece:

http://campaignsilo.firedoglake.com/2009/08/19/the-baucus-caucus-phrma-insurance-hospitals-and-rahm/

is the one that'll really make your blood run cold -- and is the reporting basis for Glenn's piece.

I should say, there are a few possible explanations for the things Jane is stringing together -- she doesn't seem to me to have the straight-up goods against Rahm. But the Occams's Razor on it looks pretty ugly.

What filibuster? I'm not aware of any Senator giving any continuous long speech.

If Senate Republicans want to filibuster, let them filibuster. If Senate Democrats want to go on the record in support of that, then let them do so.

The notion of a procedural filibuster, however, is absolute nonsense.

Today's Democratic Party doesn't appear to have much interest in progressive ideals. As noted by Greenwald's piece, the White House certainly doesn't.

I don't pretend to know the best option for a person with progressive political leanings. The ideology-free Democratic Party has the means to act but not the will.

'The Senate is already lopsided by nature of the fact that half the country has four times the power in the Senate as the other half. That's right, the least-populous 41 states, which comprise half the US population, get 82 senators, while the other half, the 9 most-populous states, get only 18 senators. Where is the justice in that? The filibuster only makes it worse. Maybe the Senate should just be abolished.'

This so-called imbalance has always been the case, deliberately so, since the Constitution was adopted. I'm aware that progressives don't like representative democracy and would much prefer the direct form. That will require a constitutional amendment and if that is accomplished I will support it, just as I support our current constitution.

On the issue of passing non-budget related legislation by using the reconciliation process, was that done during the last administration? I understand that much of the legislation under consideration now could easily pass by a simple majority. That, of course, will leave our nation far from anything resembling a consensus on the largest spending initiative in our history (perhaps a defense situation was bigger somewhere in our history, but we usually don't have disagreements regarding the role of the federal government in defense matters).

@ Good Ol' Boy:

I don't know if "reconciliation" was used, per se, but the recent Republican Congress made big use of midnight votes, for which the Republicans were warned in advance & notified by cell...and messages were left in Democrat's offices, to be retrieved the next morning....

Ah, those grand old parties!

I'm aware that progressives don't like representative democracy and would much prefer the direct form.

You don't do yourself any favors saying things like this, GOB. You aren't advancing an argument - political slander ('progressives don't like representative democracy') isn't an argument. What progressives don't like about the Senate is, precisely, that it isn't representative. It is *you* who doesn't like representative democracy. Of course it's in the constitution. A shame.

This so-called imbalance has always been the case, deliberately so, since the Constitution was adopted.

In the past, due to the nature of existing states, this was much less of a problem however. When the constitution was ratified, the ratio between population of the largest and smallest state was 11. Now it is 69. The constitution hasn't changed in this regard, but circumstances have changed so as to make this problem much worse.

I'm aware that progressives don't like representative democracy and would much prefer the direct form.

Wanting citizens to have roughly equivalent power does not require representative democracy at all. I guess you're aware of all sorts of things that just aren't so.

That will require a constitutional amendment and if that is accomplished I will support it, just as I support our current constitution.

Not necessarily. Populous states could break apart into multiple new states, right? Each borough of New York might make a good state.

@GOB:
This so-called imbalance has always been the case, deliberately so, since the Constitution was adopted. I'm aware that progressives don't like representative democracy and would much prefer the direct form.

This is quite disingenuous. The objection is not to representative democracy, but rather to disproportionate representative democracy. Your line of reasoning suggests that, were the Senate restructured to give one Senator per county for a grand total of 3035, objections that it was lopsided because the 67 people of Loving County, TX had as much Senatorial clout as the 9.5 million of LA County, CA would simply be motivated by a distaste for representative democracy. Which is, not put too fine a point on it, breathtakingly silly.

The first line from Moran's piece:

The pretense of bi-partisanship is being dropped by the Democrats

The Republican contribution to the debate has been a set of variations on the theme of "f**k you".

It takes a special brand of arrogance to describe the Democratic response as "dropping the pretense of bi-partisanship".

'What progressives don't like about the Senate is, precisely, that it isn't representative'

When the Constitution was formulated and adopted, the states had and interest and that interest was represented by the Senate. The people's interest was represented by the House. I'm not a Constitutional scholar so someone needs to enlighten me, if I'm wrong.

I apologize to any progressives I offended in my earlier comment.

This line of reasoning lost a lot of its persuasive power when the Senate went from election by state legislatures to direct elections. Yes, the Constitutional rationale was to give quasi-sovereign states equal representation, but after the 17th amendment, Senators are only beholden to the state governments if they're temporary appointments to fill a vacancy. In all other cases, they're beholden to the state's electorate.

'This line of reasoning lost a lot of its persuasive power when the Senate went from election by state legislatures to direct elections. Yes, the Constitutional rationale was to give quasi-sovereign states equal representation, but after the 17th amendment, Senators are only beholden to the state governments if they're temporary appointments to fill a vacancy. In all other cases, they're beholden to the state's electorate.'

The progressive movement that influenced the 17th amendment only got the job half done. The amendment procedure is still available, but since the states might still be thought of as 'quasi-sovereign, maybe it should remain as it is. The concept could not reasonably be extended below the state level, to counties, for example, since there is no sovereignty there.

"If Senate Republicans want to filibuster, let them filibuster. If Senate Democrats want to go on the record in support of that, then let them do so."

[headbangsondesk]

"On the issue of passing non-budget related legislation by using the reconciliation process, was that done during the last administration?"

# Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA), Pub.L. 107-16 (2001)
# Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, Pub.L. 108-27 (2003)
# Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, Pub.L. 109-171 (2006)
# Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 (TIPRA), Pub.L. 109-222 (2006)
# College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, Pub.L. 110-84 (2007)

Yes, these were budget-related. Any health-care bill will be budget-related, as well.

"That, of course, will leave our nation far from anything resembling a consensus on the largest spending initiative in our history"

The Bush administration took one of the narrowest "wins" in American history, a "win" decided by the Supreme Court, and didn't run the country on anything resembling a consensus, and pushed through huge borrowing bills in the largest borrowing initiative in our history. Presumably you protested all this at the time.

I have to say that I don't think GOB's points about there being reasoning behind the existence of state representation in Congress is some kind of illegitimate view, or view without point. I do think there are some problems that now exist with our current Congressional set-up, but I definitely amn't persuaded that I want to eliminate the Senate, or go along with some of the more radical, as well as simplistic, solutions sometimes suggested.

Gary-- do you have a post/links/source on THAT topic? That is, all the stuff that passed via reconciliation under bush? That would be very helpful i think

The Bush administration took one of the narrowest "wins" in American history, a "win" decided by the Supreme Court, and didn't run the country on anything resembling a consensus, and pushed through huge borrowing bills in the largest borrowing initiative in our history. Presumably you protested all this at the time.

Thanks for this, Gary. I would have liked to say something about it but am not particularly knowledgeable or articulate about this kind of thing.

Anyhow, in the more general sense, where on earth does it say that the country should be governed by anything "resembling consensus"? When has it ever been?

[headbangsondesk]

I'd hoped my statement wasn't so stupid as to not even merit a response.

Given that the Democrats have 60 seats in the senate, discussion about reconciliation only makes sense in context of a threatened perpetual filibuster.

Today's Senate allows a procedural filibuster, in which a Senator can, in effect, force any issue to require a 60 vote majority.

This is much different from the filibuster of yesteryear. The phonebook & diaper filibuster was a high-stakes and high-drama affair. Senators did not resort to that casually.

Republicans in the Senate cannot sustain a procedural filibuster without support or acquiescence from one or more Democrats. Today's process allows that to stay off the record. I don't think that off-the-record deals like that are very good for democracy.

I have read that the Majority Leader can require a real filibuster if he desires. Since he has not done so, it's reasonable to assume that he prefers the status quo.

If Health Care Reform legislation stalls, dies, or is compromised-into-uselessness, I will blame Democrats.

(perhaps a defense situation was bigger somewhere in our history, but we usually don't have disagreements regarding the role of the federal government in defense matters).

Several million Vietnam war protestors and Iraq war protestors would like to have a word with you.

"Gary-- do you have a post/links/source on THAT topic? That is, all the stuff that passed via reconciliation under bush?

Sure.

All I had to do was google "reconciliation" and "congress."

Then pick out the entries from the Bush years. See accompanying links, which I didn't include, because anyone can google them for themselves, and there were more than four.

This has more info, but only through 2004.

How it works.

JanieM: "Anyhow, in the more general sense, where on earth does it say that the country should be governed by anything 'resembling consensus'?"

Tons of mainstream columnists assured us after Bush v. Gore that, in the case of such an effective tie, and based on Bush's working with Democrats in Texas, that's obviously how Bush would govern.

Of course, the Bush administration took a different view.

"I'd hoped my statement wasn't so stupid as to not even merit a response."

I just wrote a long comment only like, the day before, on what it takes on both sides to filibuster, and why it's so much harder for the side that wants to invoke cloture. I have written that comment here several dozen times. Time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time.

But every day, someone else new shows up to repeat....

Gary: I went back and read that comment of yours. It was insightful and gives me something worthwhile to think about.

With that context, my earlier comments were hasty and ill-informed.

Random example: February 16, 2009 at 09:56 PM. Three">http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2009/08/dropping-the-public-option.html?cid=6a00d834515c2369e20120a555e9a0970c#comment-6a00d834515c2369e20120a555e9a0970c">Three days ago, August 17, 2009 at 04:03 PM.

I'm not going to bother to look up more examples. The problems have been discussed here endlessly, starting by at least 2005.

Okay, here's a fuller answer, just sticking almost entirely to my past few comments of the last few days. So that's why my head went bang when, after writing all that -- and hardly for the first time, but over and over and over again, year after year after year, not just this past week's discussion, you start up the question freshly again. No offense intended.

Gary: I went back and read that comment of yours. It was insightful and gives me something worthwhile to think about.

With that context, my earlier comments were hasty and ill-informed.

elm, I just want to say: this was very classy of you. I don't recall seeing you comment much around here, but if this is how you act, I'd like to see more of your comments.

"Gary: I went back and read that comment of yours. It was insightful and gives me something worthwhile to think about."

"I have read that the Majority Leader can require a real filibuster if he desires. Since he has not done so, it's reasonable to assume that he prefers the status quo."

I gather you've learned that it's not simply a case of Harry Reid preferring the status quo, but of asking a huge amount of all the Democratic Senators, far more than is asked of the party that wants to filibuster.

Sorry for giving you the headbang; it was simply a case of straws and the amount of them, and you wandered by with one. Now that I've put up my own blog post about it, I'll just link to that in future, rather than repeating myself.

This is something I should do more of as regards comments on ObWi in general. Among other things.

For a long time I've been neglecting my own blog in favor of commenting here, because I appreciate the interaction, but in both cases, the relatively low profile is starting to wear me down. For a very long time I'm investing a huge amount of time in what boils down to doing research for other people that mostly disappears down the memory hole, and is read by only a small fraction of the number of people who read front page posts at more prominent blogs than my own.

I'm strongly thinking about trying to find some group blog with a higher profile, since it's clear that in the contemporary blogging environment, a one-person non-niche blog such as my own is immensely unlikely to ever develop the kind of larger regular readership that, frankly, I'd like to find. If I can find one that's congenial, it'll probably mean cutting back my participation here. Of course, it's an open question if anyone will have me.

(Theoretically I could go back to Winds of Change, where they once invited me to be the house liberal, but I eventually found the context too frustrating, and desire to find a group blog where I'd be a better fit.)

Gosh, Gary, I can't imagine a group blog where you might fit. I'm trying to come up with one where one of the bloggers recently decided to stop blogging, or something like that. It might help if it were a blog where people were already familiar with you, too. Oh, well, I'll just sit here scratching my head endlessly.

I'll Second that nomination.

Write in votes for Gary to be on the masthead:

________________

'Several million Vietnam war protestors and Iraq war protestors would like to have a word with you.'

Didn't comment with sufficient clarity again, I regret. What I meant was that we don't usually disagree on where in our government the responsibility for national defense rests. Comment was not intended to refer to the prudence or justification or any of the pros or cons of a particular policy or action.

"What I meant was that we don't usually disagree on where in our government the responsibility for national defense rests."

Shouldn't we go with original intent?

[...] The early colonists of America considered the militia an important social structure, necessary to provide defense and public safety.[6] "They were a group of citizens who would be ready to fight in any emergency" All able-bodied males were expected to be members of the local militia, though in practice there were many possible exemptions to service including: conscientious objection, attendance at college and engagement in important business.

[...]

In 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, which contained a provision for raising a confederal militia that consent would be required from nine of the 13 States. Article VI of the Articles of Confederation states,

"...every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of filed pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage."

[...]

The Militia Act of 1792[19] clarified whom the militia consists of; " Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act."

[...]

During the Congressional debates, James Madison discussed how a militia could help defend liberty against tyranny and oppression:

The highest number to which a standing army can be carried in any country does not exceed one hundredth part of the souls, or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This portion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Besides the advantage of being armed, it forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. The governments of Europe are afraid to trust the people with arms. If they did, the people would surely shake off the yoke of tyranny, as America did. Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors."- (Source I Annals of Congress 434, June 8, 1789)

Are you going to disagree with James Madison?

'The Bush administration took one of the narrowest "wins" in American history, a "win" decided by the Supreme Court, and didn't run the country on anything resembling a consensus, and pushed through huge borrowing bills in the largest borrowing initiative in our history. Presumably you protested all this at the time.'

'Anyhow, in the more general sense, where on earth does it say that the country should be governed by anything "resembling consensus"? When has it ever been?'

I was supportive of the Bush administration on a number of things, but not on the excessive spending and borrowing. As a matter of fact, this was easily the most troubling aspect of the eight years for me along with the complete failure to see what was going on in the financial sector. I suspect those two aspects are significantly related.

On consensus, I think the questions are appropriate. It just seems to me that it might not bode well for the future if we were to develop a pattern of passing legislation, to include momentous items like healthcare (insurance) reform on a strictly partisan basis or by the barest majority. We could try to pass what's possible with a bipartisan majority and move forward from there. I don't know that this approach is viable now on this issue. I won't try to discuss why this might be so, but most here can compute that.

'Are you going to disagree with James Madison?'

Madison had a context of a newly independent nation and a tradition of tyranny in Europe.

The following is from your link Original Intent:

The shift from States' power to Federal power

A major concern of the various delegates during the constitutional debates over the Constitution and the Second Amendment to the Constitution revolved around the issue of transferring militia power held by the States' (under the existing Articles of Confederation), to Federal control. The new Constitution effected a dramatic shift of military power from being militia based and predominately controlled by the States towards being controlled by the federal Congress and the President with the addition of a federal army.[15]

Answer to your question: No

"Answer to your question: No"

If it wasn't clear, I was kinda pulling your leg there, actually.

"It just seems to me that it might not bode well for the future if we were to develop a pattern of passing legislation, to include momentous items like healthcare (insurance) reform on a strictly partisan basis or by the barest majority."

This, on the other hand, is in the wrong tense.

'This, on the other hand, is in the wrong tense.'

If we are there, then this is as good as it gets.!

The way I see it, the current situation is:
GOP: we will say no to anything the Dems propose (independent of content).
Dems: We can't pass anything, even with huge majorities because the GOPsters will be mean to us again, we never speak with one voice anyway and the majority of us are cowards and/or paid by special interests.
Preferred solution: give the Dems backbones and break those of the GOP, maybe then we can at least talk about actual solutions.

"I have a very emphatic vote for Gary to be added as a front-pager."

Which sentiment I too have voiced from time to time. I realize that Gary isn't popular with everyone, and he's even pissed me off from time to time, but positives weighed against negatives, he tips very decidedly in the plus direction, AFAIC.

Gary simply has far too much (granted, informal, but: so what?) learning stuffed into his head to not have him, somewhere, blogging on a platform that offers him wider exposure. So to speak. Hopefully not the trenchcoat-and-sneakers kind.

Oh, and the occasionally-pissed-off part of me votes the same way.

"I have a very emphatic vote for Gary to be added as a front-pager."

Gary really irritates me quite often. I am never quite sure if he disagrees with me or is just being difficult. He is certainly way too longwinded (figuratively) often.

If I see his name on a comment I always read that one first, then I check his blog pretty regularly.

I can't imagine anyone could be a better choice, based on all that, to be a top level poster here.

De-lurking for a moment…

I’ll add my voice – for Gary on the front page! There is no one better or more qualified in my mind. He is a perfect fit – and yuz guys seem to be floundering a bit… I have expressed this in email recently and I’ll double down now. No one could ever replace Hil obviously – but there is a gap to fill here. There is no one else in the blog-o-sphere who approaches Gary’s command of facts and just pure bad-ass research on any issue. It is kind of a no brainer… Is he going to piss me off? Oh yeah. I have virtual beer to pour on his head for that though…

He deserves it just based on the tens of thousands of hours he has spent here schooling the likes of me.

What is complicated about this?

OCSteve! I hope you're well!

Gary Farber FTFP!

Moi aussi.

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