Joshua Green of Bloomberg Business Week played an interesting game this week of “fantasy governing” (a substitute for fantasy-football for the non-sports-oriented among us). He imagined what the first three years of the Obama presidency would have looked like had the Senate filibuster - which makes it virtually impossible for anything to pass without a 60-vote “super majority” - not existed. Now, this may seem like nothing more than just a futile exercise in head-slapping what-if-ism, but it could actually be instructive for where we go with this issue in the future, since even Harry Reed has been calling lately for his colleagues in the Senate to take up filibuster reform (better late than never, I guess, eh, Harry?).
This is what Green concluded:
Had the filibuster not applied, the United States would have a market-based system to control carbon emissions, which would limit the damage from global warming, vitalize the clean technology sector, and challenge other large polluters like China and India to do the same. The new health care law would have a public option. Children of undocumented immigrants who served two years in the military or went to college could become US citizens. Women paid less than their male colleagues because of their gender would have broader legal recourse against their employers. Billionaires would not be able to manipulate the political system from behind a veil of anonymity…Green notes that each of these pieces of legislation was passed by the House and managed to cross the 50-vote threshold in the Senate. What kept them from being enacted into law was the Republicans’ unprecedented use (and abuse) of the filibuster in the Upper Chamber, denying each of them the 60-vote super-majority needed to pass.
Green goes on to argue that:
Dozens of vacant judgeships would have been filled. The Federal Reserve would have operated with a full slate of governors, including Nobel Prize-winning economist Peter Diamond. Elizabeth Warren would be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, not a candidate for the Senate.He makes an interesting case that Romney himself would be paying a higher rate in taxes because a provision designed to close the carried-interest loophole which allowed him to pay a 13.9% rate on his investment income would not have died in the Senate. He even goes so far as to calculate Romney’s savings at nearly $1.5 million in 2010 alone, thanks solely to the filibuster. A pretty good deal that.
Green’s exercise in wishful-thinking serves two purposes, I think: 1) to really put into perspective just how hard it has been for Obama to enact much of his legislative vision, thereby countering his critics from the left who say he hasn't gotten enough done on the progressive side; and 2) to show just how broken our system in Washington is, how truly antithetical to democracy the filibuster is.
You can read the entire article here: