Bob Franken

Health Care: How About a Filibuster-Buster?

Apparently, after his Massachusetts humiliation, President Obama has seen the light and he’s heading back to the future…back to 1992 and that mantra “It’s the Economy Stupid”.

His peeps aren’t saying so, but it looks like they’re about jettison health care and cave, after telling us that comprehensive reform was vital to the nation and engaging the opposition in a brutal political war.

Now, however they want to couch it, it appears they’re preparing to beat a hasty retreat, looking for some face-saving way out while leaving the millions of uninsured to fend for themselves.

Sure they got their butts kicked Tuesday and they truly do need to be much much less “stupid” about the economy. But should that mean they should abandon health care as a lost cause. Why not take one last, principled stand? Instead of looking for an easy way out of their war with the Republicans, why not take it to them?

Let us not forget that even with their carelessness and ineptitude in
blowing Massachusetts and their Senate super majority with it, Democrats will continue to have their plain old regular one. It’ll still be substantial,59 to 41, meaning that they can pass a bill once it comes to a vote.

They have tons of wiggle room. Even if nine defect, Vice President Biden can cast the tiebreaker. This means they can tell the joe Liebermans and Ben Nelsons exactly where they can stick their outlandish demands.

A big test would be whether trembling House and Senate Democrats were up to this fight and even capable of agreeing on a single piece of legislation that actually accomplishes something. The alternative would be to scatter as they encounter more GOP lockstep opposition.

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume House leaders can herd their cats long enough to pass the newly reconciled bill. Then it’s on to
the Senate.

It’s safe to assume that all of the Republicans there, including the new guy, will continue to dig in their heels. That means Democrats cannot get to the magic number of 60 for Cloture, which means they cannot stop debate. So LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!

It’ll be time for the aforementioned Majority to call the aforementioned Minority’s bluff. If they do the American people can witness a grotesque honest-to-God Filibuster where the opposition tries to talk the legislation to death, or each other.

Taking full advantage of the absurd Senate rules that the Segregationists
utilized in times past, the GOPs would block final consideration with floor speeches and parliamentary tactics. The Democrats would have to match them bluster-for-bluster.

It would be a Bombast Marathon…droning around the clock, seven days a week where the esteemed members could talk till they dropped, or until they realized that the people had decided they were a bunch of pompous out-of-touch buffoons.

Actually, they already had that kind of opinion of the Democrats after watching all their sleazy wheeling-and-dealing to create a passable health care bill. A final battle could at least expose the Republicans to some of the scorn.

Maybe, just maybe, they would blink. In that case, Health Care would get its up-or-down after nearly a year’s warfare that revealed how UN-united the United States can be.

Right now you’re probably asking yourself “Why do we have to go through such idiocy? That’s a fair question, but the answer is not as easy as simply stating that the Filibuster is not enshrined in the Constitution, and that there’s no reason for it.

For starters, Article One of that Constitution, the very first one, includes this clause:
“Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.”

Setting aside opinions on whether this is “disorderly Behaviour”, The Constitution clearly specifies that the esteemed members set their own rules, within the law of course.

That would include the Filibuster, or the right to unlimited debate. It goes back to ancient Rome and has been embedded in the US Senate tradition since its opening session in 1789. In fact, a 60 member vote to end the talking was only set in 1975. It used to be 67.

The most important point is the reason, which is a really good one: The Senate, by design, is supposed to be the deliberative body with inherent barriers against the excesses and passions of the day and the irresponsible decisions made by the riff raff in the unruly House of Representatives. As
James Madison put it, the Senate “…is to consist in its proceedings with more coolness, with more system and with more wisdom, than the popular branch.”

Enough with the history? OK. It’s clear the upper “branch” was designed to slow things down. All well and good. Unfortunately, often it has become a tool for those who not only want to move deliberately but instead to stifle change and protect the special interests of their patrons.

Be that as it may, it’s today’s reality and this time it’s the GOP minority which is playing games with the principle. The best the Democrats might be able to do is let them talk themselves into a corner until they collapse, along with their obstructionism.

At the very same time, maybe they’ll disgust the ones who decide whether their Senator remains in office, because, as everyone knows, “It’s Politics Stupid”

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