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You know there are a lot of creative excuses and interpretations of what the Senate can do these days, whether it’s that only Democrats must follow the Byrd rule and only Republicans can use reconciliation or that our Senate Majority Leader and our popularly elected President were always powerless and had to bow to big bad Joe Lieberman. When progressives talk about Harry Reid not using his power as Senate Majority Leader in this community sometimes you get a condescending comment about not knowing the Senate rules or “how things work in the Senate” because Lieberman would supposedly of filibustered the Senate Organizing Resolution if it was decided to strip him by Reid (if he was a real leader) or a separate vote if requested which Lieberman would have a right to still doesn't equate with the Senate Rules directly.

The Senate is merely rubber stamping the decisions of the deliberations between the Senate Majority Leader, Minority Leader, and the majority and minority party, though the bill would have had to pass the Senate and that is where the argument comes in though it does not have precedence here looking back and I will explain why.


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Simply speaking had Reid of been assertive and if the president wanted to pressure Lieberman after a mandate of an election, the Senate Organization Resolution would have passed the Senate even if Lieberman’s chair was stripped away beforehand in Committee thus sealing it with the passage of the Resolution, because opposing it then was essentially pointless, as all precedents from the preceding Congress would remain in tact with a net loss for Republicans.

Republicans weren't interested in whatever Majority Leader Reid's decision on Lieberman was, they were trying to play for a better ratio of Republican members on all committees. They realized stalling the last Senate Organizing Resolution favored Democrats and so they eventually backed off because they didn't want any of their members in jeopardy or stuck out of limbo. They had no reason to support Lieberman even if he did filibuster the resolution back then.

So what if it was filibustered last time by Lieberman? One, who asks this question to get out of pressuring a Senate Majority Leader to use their real power of influence here, isn't really paying attention to what an Organized Resolution entails completely and the timing associated with stripping chairmanships. I remember people here decrying progressives because we didn’t give a shit about having Lieberman in the caucus and we wanted him kicked out in the last Senate Organizing Resolution. We actually wanted leadership there from the Democratic Majority Leader and we expected voiced opposition to Lieberman for back stabbing us from our president whom was also back-stabbed. You know why? Because there was no pressure towards Lieberman whatsoever even though it was the right time to strip him whether anyone likes it or not and none of our leaders were able to look ahead like progressives were.

The middle of the commode caucus here all fear mongered over what would happen if we lost Lieberman’s vote. Guess what? As I have indisputably shown we could have kicked him out and stripped his chair away with little or no repercussions whatsoever including any filibuster threat from Lieberman who didn’t give one.  Former Democratic Senate staffer Martin Paone, you know, an actual Senate expert in what we call reality, agrees as I show you below. It looks like all of you whom were crying 60 knew about as much about the Senate as Evan Bayh does, diddly squat. So let me refer to someone who actually knows the Senate rules and what they are talking about, shall we?


According to Paone, "the time to take a chairmanship away is when everybody is being appointed [at the beginning of the new Congress]. Everybody has an investment in that resolution. In order for everybody to benefit, that resolution has to pass. It's much more difficult to cherry pick in this fashion, to take one Senator's chairmanship, at a later date."

Asked if Bayh understands this complexity, Paone said "I'm sure he probably doesn't. There aren't that many people up there who do. It's not every day you want to change a chairmanship. And since the Hatfield matter never materialized, I think that shows why it's not as easy as some might think."

Yeah, I don’t think the enablers here saying that Obama and Reid did everything they could for the public option HCR they said they would or understand such complexity either. So every time I made this point it was absolutely correct with absolute precedence and now because of those who erroneously made the excuse about filibustering a Senate Organizational Resolution in the beginning of the 111th Congress didn’t know what the hell they were talking about and they still don’t. That’s what is called embarrassingly dropping the ball and those making excuses for this really need to get a clue.

And so now that you are educated about this you know every one of you who wanted Lieberman back then agrees with Evan Bayh, so essentially you really don’t know the rules after all. It's proven.

FACT: We wouldn’t be in this position now if this stupid decision wasn’t made and if the enablers applauded this decision and want to act like our leadership did everything they could. To do so is pure belief of parliamentary procedure that is not based in reality. Don’t make me laugh when you make this assertion while demonstrably not having a freaking clue about the Senate Rules or when the right time to make the decision to take away a chairmanship.

And now because of your Machiavellian dance of BS it will be even harder now to take Lieberman’s chair away when the next Senate Organization Resolution comes up as per the last linked article stating quite clearly for anyone willing to acknowledge reality. There are about half of this community that does acknowledge reality, but half are still living in Democratic campaign "08" dream world that they need to wake up from. I truly do hope these delusional dynamics change soon.

"It takes a Senate resolution to change a chairmanship, and that resolution could be subject to a filibuster," Paone told the Huffington Post. Put simply, under Bayh's proposed scenario, Republicans would have every reason to filibuster a new Senate resolution taking Lieberman's chairmanship away if he was proving an effective antagonist of President Obama.

Paone noted that a similar game of political chess played out in the Senate's recent history. "We had a similar situation in the past with a Republican moderate senator, Mark Hatfield from Oregon, who voted the wrong way in the eyes of [former Sen. Rick] Santorum and others on the constitutional amendment on a balanced budget," Paone said. "There were rumblings they wanted to take his chairmanship away. But the ranking member on the committee was [Democratic] Sen. Robert Byrd, who wrote Hatfield a nice note saying, 'if they ever try to take your chairmanship away, I'll make sure we [Democrats] will filibuster such a resolution."

Lieberman has now proven himself an effective antagonist against Obama, so it will be much more likely now that a Senate Organizational Resolution is filibustered. So as I have always said, there wasn’t the right pressure applied to Lieberman and his chair should have been taken away with a resolution that would have absolutely passed the Senate cementing the decisions made already and influenced by the Majority Leader and our President at the start of this Congress.

That is a pretty damaging scenario half of this community who enabled this failure (unlike the activist half holding feet to the fire) have gotten us into, but there is some slight hope. Recent history shows that even the threat of taking Lieberman’s Committee seat away even without the Senate Organizations Resolution might work though our leadership failed absolutely, including President Obama, in anticipating what we knew Lieberman was going to do and to strip him when the Resolution could have passed the Senate with no question. Let’s hope this can work for us when Lieberman tries to block other meaningful legislation with his deficit fetish, as thanks to these creative unrealistic excuses for Harry Reid, it’s probably the only hope we have for real legislation with teeth. (Lieberman will continue to want to punish everyone who voted for Lamont which is what this is about for him now that he is emboldened thanks to the enablers I speak of. These are facts.)

Though I disagree with him and his Dutch fetish among other things on HCR that don't seem to be a realistic, Ezra Klein is right here on this point backing up what I said:

That's Steve Benen, describing the dynamic in the Senate. As I've said before, I think a lot of folks imagine this as a negotiation, in which both sides want to get to yes, and so everyone is involved in a complex game to signal their comfort with failure in order to strengthen their ultimate bargaining position. But that's not an accurate depiction of the process.

If this is comparable to any form of negotiation, it's a hostage negotiation. The hostage-takers might not prefer to kill the kid, but there's definitely some upside to killing the kid, as it strengthens them in future negotiations. Conversely, the people on the other side of the phone don't want the kid to die, but also don't want a situation in which hostage-taking is encouraged. Generally, you try and resolve that by killing or capturing the hostage-takers, but that's not really an option here, with the closest analogue being a kamikaze primary challenge against Blanche Lincoln, which would come too late to affect health-care reform anyway.

Here are the Senate rules outlining exactly how Harry Reid could influence and shape this process via his duties as Majority Leader. The President could apply pressure as well as he was elected with a mandate and with that comes the bully pulpit. Reagan used his mandate to destroy the working class, and if Obam wanted to he could resurrect it, but I had my doubts as soon as Goldman Sachs/Citi-bank+corp+Travelers Insurance company=CitiGroup employees filled the Treasury. Leaving that aside, he could of actually talked to Lieberman about the public option in the first place which he didn’t.

It’s important to understand the actual rules of the Senate and the right time to use your power to strip Chairmanship away as well as the sway of a Senate Majority Leader before making erroneous excuses for him.


Because of the importance of committee work, Senators consider desirable committee assignments a priority. The key to securing favorable committee slots is often said to be targeting committee seats that match the legislator’s skills, expertise, and policy concerns. After general elections are over, one of the first orders of business for Senate leaders is setting the sizes and ratios of committees. Although the size of each standing committee is set in Senate rules, changes in these sizes often result from inter-party negotiations before each new Congress. Senate party leaders also negotiate the party ratios on standing committees. Determinations of sizes and ratios usually are made before the process of assigning Senators to committees.

Once sizes and ratios of standing committees are determined, a panel for each party nominates colleagues for committee assignments. Senate Republicans primarily use a Committee on Committees for this purpose, although the Republican leader nominates Senators for assignment to some standing committees. Senate Democrats use a Steering and Coordination Committee to nominate Democrats for assignment to all standing committees. The processes these panels use are distinct. Republicans rely on a seniority formula to make nominations, while Democrats make nominations on a seat-by-seat basis, considering a variety of factors.

The processes also have many common features. After the general election, each panel solicits preferences for committee assignment from party colleagues, then matches these preferences with vacancies on standing committees. Senate rules,
along with party rules and practices, guide the work of the Committee on Committees and the Steering and Coordination Committee. Senate rules, for instance, divide the standing and other Senate committees into three groups, the so-called “A” “B” and “C” categories. Senators must serve on two “A” committees and may serve on one “B” committee, and any number of “C” committees. Exceptions to these restrictions are sometimes approved by the Senate. Both parties place further limitations, for example, by generally prohibiting two Senators from the same party and state from serving on the same committee. The nominations of each of these panels require the approval of the pertinent full party conference and ultimately the Senate. Approval at both stages usually is granted easily, because of the debate and decision-making earlier in the process.

Specific rules regarding Senate membership on and appointments to nonstanding committees vary from committee to committee, but party leaders usually are included in the process.

The power of a Majority Leader I cite whether in the Senate with Bill Frist in the past or the House with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay comes from using the same types of Committee threat precedents comes into play with absolute relevance and results, but this time for progress.

So cowering in fear and making excuses for Obama and Reid at every turn is not excusable for those that do it and implying the innocent bystander fable is showing an ignorance of the rules and recent history as to what I am talking about which is absolutely clear and has absolute precedent. Harry Reid and President Obama did almost nothing to pressure Lieberman when they had the chance just as I said. We should threaten chairmanships still just in case we can get the same results Bush and Bill Frist did for our side, even though it is a bit of a long shot at this point even after 2010.

As digby says, we have now lost a huge symbol of liberal strength and political power because of this non public option HCR bill.

Ezra believes that if the votes aren't there for a decent public option then the horse trading should be around getting something good in return for giving up the public option rather than negotiating the terms of the public option. That would make sense if the public option were just another feature of the health care bill. But it is not. It is the central demand of the liberal base of the Democratic Party in this rube goldberg health care plan and has long since gone way beyond a policy to become a symbol.

Perhaps that is wrong on policy grounds. People will argue about that forever. But that doesn't change the fact that it is no longer a matter of policy but rather a matter of political power. And to that extent it cannot be "bargained away" for something like better subsidies, even if it made sense. "Bargaining away" the Public Option is also the bargaining away of liberal influence and strength.

And more on that point, this sets a precedent and our weak kneed leadership across the board will now be a walking moral hazard  as eloquently illustrated by John Aravosis and it’s something we are all going to have to think about whether we like it or not. We lost the first big fight which sets this precedent for climate change, another stimulus we desperately need, or auditing the Fed to find out whether our capital is working for us or swimming in the shadow banking sector here and overseas.
And there's another reason political experts are more upset about the capitulation to Joe Lieberman than some so called policy experts. Political experts know a thing or two about moral hazard - the concept in economics that says that if you cover someone's ass, they'll make the same mistake over and over again. If we let Democrats get away with being weak, with refusing to lead on health care reform, with refusing to defend and fight for the President's own campaign promises, and instead settle for a mere shadow of what he promised, and what we could have had, then we should not be surprised when the same capitulation happens on immigration, climate change, gay rights, and every other issue that someone out there cares about. Any parent can tell you what happens when you reward bad behavior.

(I mean, hey, being 4/5ths a man is better than only being 3/5ths a man, isn't it? And on gays in the military, how about we only let half of you serve openly, but we segregate you in separate barracks - I mean, George Bush would never have gone even this far, would he? And finally climate change - if we delay the destruction of mankind for 300 years instead of the current trajectory of, say, 150 years, I'd call that a victory.)

 If you don't want Democrats to ever keep their promises, if you want Barack Obama to sell out your constituency from the git-go and undercut your effort to hold him to his promises every step of the way, then please do heartily endorse this health care reform "compromise." I'm sure the bill helps some small fraction of Americans somewhere, maybe. But I know that it's going to screw my people when our issue comes up for a vote, and it'll screw yours too.

I don’t think this is real reform on policy either, like I don’t think the ACES bill is real reform, nor will I think the Kerry Boxer climate change legislation will go far enough. Nor do I think this administration is really going to enact true financial regulation unless they support Maria Cantwell’s Glass Steagall bill with John McCain (Uh oh! I guess we better shun it then!), but Giethner is now pushing Sheila Bair out of the equation and Bernanke is going to cause another intentional recession on top of this one to combat inflation during a deflationary like spiral with the support of the President and some of his enablers.

I know, the truth hurts, and so deal with it and then and only then will you feel better. I think you’d better come up with some better excuses next time. And to the other half of principled kossacks, I love you and keep fighting.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to priceman on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 06:08 AM PST.

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