It’s been a week since the election; if you’re a political geek you’re likely stuffed with all the pundits proclaiming this and that. But two issues the media left unexplored:
- The Filibuster — how to keep it and return to what it is supposed to be.
- Why Republicans not taking the Senate is good for the Republic (and it has nothing to do with partisan politics like D’s and R’s).
The Senate (unlike the House), provides unlimited debate for bills. Naturally, this means if debate never ends, no vote can ever occur. When a group refuses to end debate, it’s called a filibuster. Ending debate requires 60 votes, thus 40 Senators can effectively block a bill from proceeding.
That’s a good thing, and exactly the way the Senate is supposed to operate.
Right now you’re hearing Democrats desire to end the filibuster rule — of course, the only reason is because they have the majority right now. As soon as they become a minority in the Senate, they’ll want the filibuster back — badly.
Mend it, don’t end it
Fixing the filibuster is simple. Make them actually do it. For some reason, Senate Leader Reid allowed a mere threat of a filibuster to force him to turn tail and run. Why? Why did he lack guts to force a vote? Only he knows for sure, but his lack of a proper response created the problem, and the calls to end the filibuster rules.
Fixing it remains a simple leadership action — make the group actually filibuster, instead of a mere threat. If you’ve seen “Mr Smith goes to Washington”, you know what a real filibuster entails — speaking at length to hold the floor, without a break. In days gone by, Senators would read cookbooks, phone books, anything to take up time.
The cure for the filibuster problem is make them do it, not just threaten it.
You see, when open debate occurs in the Senate, no other business can get done. Even if a filibuster lasts for days or weeks, eventually the pressure to finish other business forces the opposing groups to get together and compromise.
And that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to work. The Senate is designed to slow down radical changes the House may propose, and slow down momentum from “wave” elections.
By not forcing the opposition to actually perform the filibuster, Senate Leader Reid created the problem. Fixing it is simple as well. No need to eliminate it, it’s one of the good ideas the Senate has.
How many good ideas can you say Congress has had lately?
Senate vs House
The failure of Republicans to take over the Senate sent pundits spinning for hours, but miss the main point:
That’s exactly the way it’s supposed to work.
A reason exists why Congress divides into two houses. The House gets two-year terms, while the Senate six (but only a portion of Senators up for election each year).
The founders were smart — they understood wave elections occur, but allowing wholesale change isn’t good for the country. Thus the House would respond instantly to a popular wave, where they could introduce huge changes in legislation.
Once that legislation makes it to the Senate, it’s a different story. The Senate is designed to slow the process down, allowing for a more stable republic. For that reason, both the filibuster and a failure to take over the Senate are good — with both in place the system functions as intended (it was even better before direct election of Senators, but that’s another topic).
In this last election, we observed one of the biggest repudiations of a party and policies in history, with Republicans making massive gains in the House. In the Senate, however, it’s much more difficult to create a “wave” in a single election, to avoid the country making rapid course changes.
The filibuster and the Senate — working as intended. It would be a very bad idea to change those fundamental ideas of the Republic.