"No minority has a right to block a majority from conducting the legal business of the organization. No majority has a right to prevent a minority from peacefully attempting to become a majority." Robert M. Pirsig, American philosopher and author of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," put that terse summary of Robert's Rules of Order in his later book, "Lila." To Pirsig, those two sentences set a framework for a democracy where "Dynamic Quality" can flourish, and society can evolve. But unluckily, in the world's first modern democracy one party has battered and cracked that framework. In both houses of the U.S. Congress a reckless minority of Republicans routinely blocks a majority from conducting the business of the nation.
In the Senate the Republican minority blocks the nation's business with the silent filibuster rule. Originally, the filibuster was a seldom-used tactic for a Senator to demonstrate one's displeasure with an issue by holding the floor for as long as one's wind held out. But the silent filibuster has practically become a 60% vote requirement. Since 2007, the minority Republicans have filibustered way more than any group before. They have filibustered legislation, such as that to close loopholes to keep the crazy and criminal from buying guns. And they have filibustered confirmations, such as that for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, trying to block its work, and for judgeships, creating a "judicial emergency" in 33 districts and circuits.
In the House a minority formed of the Republican Teabag Caucus and its followers blocks action on any bill it opposes with the "majority of the majority" rule. Also known as the "Hastert Rule," after the Republican speaker of the House that made it official party policy, it states that no bill comes to the floor, unless the speaker knows that a majority of Republicans, now a 233-201 majority in the House, favors it. Under the majority of the majority rule, any bill favored by a majority formed of most Democrats and less-than-half of Republicans would not come to the floor. Take for example H.R. 199, which closes a corporate tax loophole on a deduction for executive compensation of more than a half million a year. Such a sensible budget bill just might get 17 Republicans to join 201 Democrats for a majority to pass it. Or take H.R. 163, which protects the Sleeping Bear Dunes area of the Lake Michigan shore as a national wilderness area. That bill is sponsored by twelve Michigan congressmen of both major parties, and would very likely pass before the whole House. But it might be tough to get a majority of House Republicans, who in the last Congress passed a bill that would have gutted the Wilderness Act.
Now, this battered and cracked Congress can be fixed by electing more sane and sensible persons to it. In the Senate, a simple majority can change the rules, and dump the silent filibuster. Voters could enable that in the primary election by ousting any senator that won't support majority rule. And in the House, the majority party leaders could simply reject the majority of the majority rule. Voters could enable that in the general election by voting in the Democrats, who have never adopted such a rule. To help voters, a candidate in favor of fixing Congress would do well to sign a pledge for democracy and majority rule:
U.S. House of Representatives candidates
Majority Rule Pledge
I, ...................................., pledge to the citizens of the .............. district of the state of ....................., and to the American people, that I will oppose the "majority of the majority" rule, and any other such rules that would block a majority from conducting the legal business of the United States House of Representatives.
U.S. Senate candidates
Majority Rule Pledge
I, ...................................., pledge to the citizens of the state of ....................., and to the American people, that I will oppose the silent filibuster, and any other such rules that would block a majority from conducting the legal business of the United States Senate.
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