Ezra Klein is shrill

…And rightly so. He wrote, after a vote to allow debate on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell failed to clear a 60 vote plurality: DADT didn’t fail. The Senate did:

The bill repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell didn’t fail: The Senate did. The bill got 57 votes, not 49. As Dylan Matthews pointed out, a procedural failsafe that’s theoretically meant to protect the rights of minorities was just used to restrict the rights of minorities — which is how it’s always been, of course.

The various players are excitedly blaming one another. Anonymous aides to Harry Reid are arguing that Susan Collins’s demands would’ve meant so much conservative obstruction that there wouldn’t have been time for a vote. Collins was just on the television saying that if Reid had only given her more time, the bill would’ve passed.

I don’t care who’s right. And nor should anyone else. The diffusion of responsibility that comes from deciding law through complex parliamentary gamesmanship rather than simple majority-rules votes is the problem. What happened today is that a majority of the Senate voted for a bill that the majority of Americans support. The bill did not pass. Neither Harry Reid nor Susan Collins are ultimately responsible for that. The rules of the Senate are.

Harry Reid has got to know that Klein is right. He also has to know that the only way he’ll have a legacy worth remembering is if he sees to it that the filibuster is reformed, and reformed dramatically. There’s a way to do it, and an absolute need.

Klein’s point that the filibuster has always been used by Senate minorities set on restricting the rights of society’s minorities is well taken and worth emphasizing. Until the last decade, that was almost the only purpose it had been used for, especially before final passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the realignment of political parties that it compelled. I’m sure some good filibuster examples exist, mostly of judicial appointments (Bernie Sanders eight hour speech against tax cuts for the wealthy wasn’t a filibuster). And I could see preserving the filibuster in cases of lifetime appointments to the federal bench. But for legislation and presidential appointments to executive agencies and the White House itself, allowing a minority to obstruct legislation forever, and to block the President from employing his chosen staff, is simply undemocratic and absurd.

It’s time to fix this flawed institution.

Comments

  1. #1 Deepak Shetty
    December 14, 2010

    DADT didn’t fail. The Senate did

    Did you forget the people who actually voted for the 40+ candidates who wont vote to repeal?

  2. #2 Josh Rosenau
    December 14, 2010

    Deepak: Far less than a majority of Americans voted for the Senators who voted against DADT. Which is doubly frustrating.

  3. #3 Deepak Shetty
    December 14, 2010

    @Josh
    Sure. But a significant percentage did vote for these senators and will do so in 2012 too where you might even have to forget any chances of a simple majority in favor (even if you could do away with the filibuster as it stands).

  4. #4 Josh Rosenau
    December 15, 2010

    Deepak, I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, but I’m not sure how it relates to the post above. The Senate had a majority in favor of action, and could not do so because of the abuse of anti-majoritarian rules.

  5. #5 Deepak Shetty
    December 16, 2010

    Well you want the rules changed to prevent filibuster to allow simple majorities to work for most cases right? That’s not going to help , because soon enough you wont have that majority which means everything you pass can be undone by that same majority.
    Its not the numbers that matter (whether you need 51 or 60 votes to pass something or the rules of the filibuster) – its having an electorate capable enough of voting in their interests. So I disagree with the sentiment that the Senate failed. The people failed when they elected 40 clowns.

  6. #6 daveinboca
    December 18, 2010

    The Senate had a majority in favor of action, and could not do so because of the abuse of anti-majoritarian rules.

    I can see you flunked out of your Poli Sci courses and probably didn’t get a date for the prom. It’s called the “Tyranny of the Majority” in poli sci terms and is the tradition of the Senate for over 200 years. What is your obsession with DADT to overturn 200+ years of tradition?

    But go ahead, Joshua, beat down those walls. Remove the filibuster by all means.

    Of course you are aware that in 2012, of the 33 seats up for election in the Senate, 22 are now held by Dems. If you didn’t flunk out of your statistics course, even you can figure the odds were the Republicans to gain about four more seats and there was no filibuster.

    Sheesh, what a moron…!

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