We are all aware of the Senate Republican strategy of using the cloture process during the past 20 months to great success for their tiny constituency and vast harm to millions of Americans.
They have proven their ability to rule as a minority. While folk are petitioning to have the Senate change their rules in Jan 2011, at the outset of the next Congress, I humbly suggest that the Democratic Party could bolster its performance prospects in November 2010 by having the Democratic members of the Senate actually challenge the UnConstitutional rule-by-minority that the cloture process enables.
The notion would be to select a piece of legislation that remedies a particularly odious defect.
A particularly odious defect is one that President Obama addressed today.
In his Saturday address to the Nation he focused on the ability of corporations, including foreign controlled corporations, to purchase millions of dollars of attack ads and thereby leverage their vast wealth to further erode democracy in America.
The legislation that President Obama references is H.R.5175: DISCLOSE Act
As President Obama noted, the Republicans have used the cloture process to prevent the bill from coming to a vote.
While countless important pieces of legislation languish in the Senate, it would be fitting for the UnConstitutional rule-by-minority cloture process to be killed through a process readily available to any Senator at any time.
That process is tersely described below and I have inserted "Constitutional" for "nuclear" because the "nuclear" meme is a distraction from the fact that what has been nuked time and time again is the will of the majority - the very essence of a democratic system of governance:
The democratic (aka nuclear) option is a potential response to a filibuster or other dilatory tactic. A senator makes a point of order calling for an immediate vote on the measure before the body, outlining what circumstances allow for this. The presiding officer of the Senate, usually the vice president of the United States or the president pro tempore, makes a parliamentary ruling upholding the senator's point of order. The Constitution is cited at this point, since otherwise the presiding officer is bound by precedent. A supporter of the filibuster may challenge the ruling by asking, "Is the decision of the Chair to stand as the judgment of the Senate?" This is referred to as "appealing from the Chair." An opponent of the filibuster will then move to table the appeal. As tabling is non-debatable, a vote is held immediately. A simple majority decides the issue. If the appeal is successfully tabled, then the presiding officer's ruling that the filibuster is unconstitutional is thereby upheld. Thus a simple majority is able to cut off debate, and the Senate moves to a vote on the substantive issue under consideration. The effect of the democratic option is not limited to the single question under consideration, as it would be in a cloture vote. Rather, the democratic option effects a change in the operational rules of the Senate, so that the filibuster or dilatory tactic would thereafter be barred by the new precedent.
What I think would be an interesting irony is one of the most challenged Senators for re-election (Blanche are you listening) were to call a point of order on The Disclose Act.
Irrespective of which Senator took that action it would be an amazingly just way to halt two grave threats to our fragile Democracy - corporatist Republicans using cloture to block everything from jobs legislation and loans to small business and climate/energy reforms .... while also enabling corporations to take more and more control of governance by their unaccountable financing of lies, smears, fear and hate in campaign ads.
I personally don't care which Senator does it. What I do hope is that those among you with blogs and organizations that actually care about our Democracy will find ways to encourage Senators to return from their recess, call a point of order on The Disclose Act (or the Jobs Bill or ...), succeed in a simple majority vote to 'table the appeal,' and kill rule-by-minority once and for all in the US Senate.
Then, day after day, until Election Day in November 2010, pass one piece of legislation after another - by simple majority - because the Republicans will no longer be able to hide behind cloture and no longer able to block the will of the people.