Friday, February 12, 2010

The myth of filibuster reform

Democrats have recently discovered disdain for the same rules on filibusters that they treasured when they were in the minority. Republicans who thought filibusters were undemocratic when they were in the majority now prize the right of the minority to block legislation and nominations.

This is all utterly predictable, just as the calls by prominent Democrats such as Carl Levin and Tom Harkin to reform the filibuster rules. It takes 67 votes to change those rules. Democratic bloggers and a few politicians have mused about using Joe Biden's role as President of the Senate to cram through a rule change without having to get 67 votes. Harry Reid has now said ixnay to that idea.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) swatted down colleagues' efforts to lower the threshold it takes to end a filibuster.

Reid said that while he was familiar with Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-Iowa) efforts to reform the Senate filibuster rules, he signaled that such a rule change would be unlikely.

"I love Tom Harkin. I'm totally familiar with his idea," Reid said during a news conference on the Capitol on Thursday. "It takes 67 votes, and that, kind of, answers the question."
Reid, at least, recognizes that what goes around comes around. The Republicans could regain the majority in another election or two. It doesn't look like we're set for another 40-year term of one-party domination of either house. So while the Democrats hate filibusters and holds on elections today, they will suddenly love those rules if they should be in the minority.

Byron York makes the good point that all this hyperventilating about the evils of the filibuster is about only one issue - health care.
But put aside the predictable hypocrisy. This new fight over the filibuster is about just one thing: health care reform.

You often hear Democrats and their boosters in the press complain that under the present system Congress "can't get anything done." But if you go to the White House Web site, you'll find a list of the president's first-year accomplishments -- the Recovery Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, expansion of children's health insurance, and more -- that are all measures passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. They all got done.

So when you hear someone say lawmakers can't get anything done, what they really mean is that Congress can't pass a national health care bill. And because the health care bill -- opposed by a solid majority of Americans for the last six months -- can't pass, the "reformers" in the Senate would blow up the filibuster for the benefit of a single piece of legislation.

But it's not going to happen.
The Founders wanted to prevent the tyranny of the majority. They created a system of checks and balances so that no one faction could push through its policies unless there was a widespread agreement from all sides on those issues. The Democrats' health care reforms became increasingly unpopular. The Democrats, despite their filibuster-proof majority could not get it enacted into law.

Once again, the system established by our Founders worked. While the filibuster was not part of the original rules of the Founders, it certainly is in line with their concerns about creating a system that would check individual factions or parties from too much domination.

There will be no reform of the filibuster rules. And that is not a bad thing.