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View Diary: A sure sign Dems have the upper hand in filibuster reform: a bipartisan 'compromise' to take it away (84 comments)

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  •  That wasn't the point (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not arguing against any of the Constitutional supermajority requirements. There are certainly some things that should require a supermajority to change. They are spelled out in the Constitution, as you wrote.  

    My point is that the Senate is abusing its power to make its own rules by allowing a minority to permanently block action on normal business.

    The founders did address this topic. In The Federalist No. 22, for example, Hamilton wrote (emphasis mine):

    The necessity of unanimity in public bodies, or of something approaching towards it, has been founded upon a supposition that it would contribute to security. But its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of the government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent, or corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.
    If the Founders wanted the Senate to operate by supermajority for normal business, they would have required that in the Constitution, just as they did in the instances you cite. In the absence of such a requirement, a simple majority was (and is) expected to suffice for normal business.


    I agree with your points about how the Constitution might be amended to change the undemocratic nature of the Senate's make-up (see my diary on that subject), but that's a different subject than the Senate's rules allowing filibusters.

    The filibuster is a crime against democracy.

    by schuylkill on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 01:30:58 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  The founders obviously wanted to... (0+ / 0-) leave it up to each house to determine what rules they wanted to follow. They were smart enough to know that the House and the Senate may make rules that the founders didn't like and likely figured that the ballot box would take care of any problems in that regard if the people didn't like the rules.

      As for the Hamilton quote, I would hardly call 60% a "unanimity [or] something approaching towards it" - esp. when the Constitution has a bunch of actions that clearly specify a requirement for a two-thirds majority. The dictated structure of the Senate, which gives wildly disproportionate power to small states, seems to support that premise.

      I don't like the current filibuster rules either, and I hope they are changed to at least require actually, well, filibustering. But I'm still not convinced that they would have been considered a travesty by the founders. I think it's much more likely they would have found the scope of control that the Federal Government exercises now to be a travesty to their original ideals.

      Too bad we can't dig them up and ask them.

      •  Don't have to dig them up (0+ / 0-)

        We don't have to dig them up and ask them. They left plenty of their opinions and reasoning behind in writings and essays that we can still read today. I've read a fair bit of them and don't remember any arguments for allowing a minority to block the majority in normal business in legislative bodies.

        In fact, one of the reasons for needing a new constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation was this (also from The Federalist No. 22):

        Its operation contradicts the fundamental maxim of republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority should prevail.
        You and I can disagree on what the Founders would think of the filibuster rules in the Senate, but I remain confidant that they would be appalled at the Senate's dysfunction today—just as most Americans today are appalled at it—and the main reason it's dysfunctional are the filibuster rules that allow a minority to block the majority on normal business.

        But what the Founders would think is not really the main issue. We have the last several years of experience of its dysfunction as proof that the Senate, with these rules, cannot perform its constitutional duty: to conduct the nation's business.

        The rules that allow the filibuster were, perhaps, tolerable when they were used infrequently, but to use them to block normal business is not tolerable and they have led to today's dysfunction.

        Technically, it does not require any change to the Constitution to revise or eliminate the rules that allow minorities to block action. They're just Senate rules. The House has the same power to make its own rules and yet has managed to reform its rules to eliminate filibustering, which used to take place in the House, too.  

        However, politically, it may take a constitutional change to limit the Senate's power to make its own rules in order to end its abuse of that power.

        Those damn Senators just love themselves too much.

        The filibuster is a crime against democracy.

        by schuylkill on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:38:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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