I've just finished teaching the unit on the Constitutional Convention and ratification debates for my A.P. Government class. We read excerpts from the Federalist Papers as Madison explained his concerns about checking the power of a majority. We discussed why the Senate had been created as a different sort of institution from the House. With the 17th Amendment and this action by the Senate today, the Senate is no longer much different from the House. The Senators are no longer chosen indirectly by the state legislatures and now the Senate has become more of an institution like the House where the minority has few rights. Philosophically, that should concern those who care about the measures that were written into the Constitution to protect against the tyranny of the majority. This moment will come back to haunt the Democrats because our politics is cyclical and parties that are in majority one day will be in the minority another day.
The WSJ sums up what will now be possible for the Democrats.
The immediate result of Harry Reid's power play will be that President Obama has a freer hand to pursue his agenda through regulation and the courts. Democrats will now rush to pack the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in particular, adding three new judges over GOP objection to a court that is already underworked.The Democrats complain that the Republicans have used the filibuster to block presidential nominations to a degree unseen in political history. That is so. But it was the Democrats who pioneered the use of the filibuster to block judicial nominees when George W. Bush was president. That tawdry history demonstrates how whenever one party introduces a new tactic, the other party will adopt that tactic and then kick it up. So, even though the rule change is supposed to not include Supreme Court nominees or legislation, those will be the next change to come.
They will also confirm Mel Watt as the chief regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Mr. Watt, who will have almost unlimited power as government conservator, will proceed to allow principal writedowns on underwater mortgages before the 2014 election. And he will begin to finance an "affordable housing trust fund" for liberal groups that dole out subsidies to Democratic voters and harass businesses with lawsuits.
Mr. Obama also hopes to limit successful legal challenges to his rule-by-regulation. The D.C. Circuit will now have more liberal judges to hear challenges to his unilateral climate-change power grab or his rewrite by fiat of the Affordable Care Act.
Dana Milbank explains how this rule change will just increase partisanship ugliness in the Congress.
“Cloture has fostered more bipartisanship in the Senate,” Donald Ritchie, the Senate historian, told me Thursday after Reid detonated his nuclear device. “The majority leader of the Senate is expected to try to work out some kind of a bipartisan deal to get enough votes to get cloture. Because the House is run by majority rule, it is seen as a sign of weakness if the majority leadership of the House has to get votes from the minority side.”
Now the Senate will be just as dysfunctional.
Reid was right that Republican obstruction has been intolerable; half of the 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations in the nation’s history, he noted, have come during the Obama presidency.
But Reid’s remedy — calling a simple-majority vote to undo more than two centuries of custom — has created a situation in which the minority leader, Mitch McConnell (Ky.), is expected to use the minority’s remaining powers to gum up the works, and to get revenge when Republicans regain the majority.
“If a Senate majority demonstrates it can make such a change once, there are no rules which binds a majority, and all future majorities will feel free to exercise the same power, not just on judges and executive appointments but on legislation,” Levin said Thursday. Quoting one of the Senate’s giants, Arthur Vandenberg, Levin said his fellow Democrats had sacrificed “vital principle for the sake of momentary convenience.”
If it was possible to make things even worse in Washington, Reid just did it.
The National Journal focuses on how the administration has concentrated everything that will be damaging the health care system right before the 2014 election.
Canceled insurance plans are the most obvious example. President Obama said last week that insurers can un-cancel certain policies for another year, a move largely designed to appease nervous Democrats. But a one-year delay simply means that cancellation notices will resume next October—just weeks before many of those same Democrats will face voters for the first time since voting to pass the Affordable Care Act.That is why the administration is now moving to delay enrollments for 2015 for a month to push it back after the 2014 election so voters won't see how their premiums are going up until after the election.
And that’s not the only political threat lurking just ahead of the 2014 midterms. The White House also delayed the law’s employer mandate until 2015. That means employers will be deciding in mid- to late 2014 whether they’re going to offer health benefits under the mandate—and whether to cut employees’ hours to avoid providing them with health care.
With Obamacare squeezing the insurance companies, the only way to get the money the federal government will need to finance the plan is to turn to squeeze doctors. And the result will be that more and more doctors will stop participating in the exchanges.
Many doctors are disturbed they will be paid less -- often a lot less -- to care for the millions of patients projected to buy coverage through the health law’s new insurance marketplaces.
Some have complained to medical associations, including those in New York, California, Connecticut, Texas and Georgia, saying the discounted rates could lead to a two-tiered system in which fewer doctors participate, potentially making it harder for consumers to get the care they need.
“As it is, there is a shortage of primary care physicians in the country, and they don’t have enough time to see all the patients who are calling them,” said Peter Cunningham, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington D.C.
If providers are paid less, “are [enrollees] going to have difficulty getting physicians to accept them as patients?”
Insurance officials acknowledge they have reduced rates in some plans, saying they are under enormous pressure to keep premiums affordable. They say physicians will make up for the lower pay by seeing more patients, since the plans tend to have smaller networks of doctors.
But many primary care doctors say they barely have time to take care of the patients they have now.
Charles Krauthammer exposes how ludicrous and shameful the Iran deal that John Kerry has been negotiating.
The only reason Iran has come to the table after a decade of contemptuous stonewalling is that economic sanctions have cut so deeply — its currency has collapsed, inflation is rampant — that the regime fears a threat to its very survival.Why should the U.S. give up the only leverage it has in dealing with Iran for nothing at all except some free time to continue their efforts to build nuclear capability.
Nothing else could move it to negotiate. Regime survival is the only thing the mullahs value above nuclear weapons. And yet precisely at the point of maximum leverage, President Obama is offering relief in a deal that is absurdly asymmetric: The West would weaken sanctions in exchange for cosmetic changes that do absolutely nothing to weaken Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.
Don’t worry, we are assured. This is only an interim six-month agreement to “build confidence” until we reach a final one. But this makes no sense. If at this point of maximum economic pressure we can’t get Iran to accept a final deal that shuts down its nuclear program, how in God’s name do we expect to get such a deal when we have radically reduced that pressure?
A bizarre negotiating tactic. And the content of the deal is even worse. It’s a rescue package for the mullahs.
Not a single centrifuge is dismantled. Not a single facility that manufactures centrifuges is touched. In Syria, the first thing the weapons inspectors did was to destroy the machines that make the chemical weapons. Then they went after the stockpiles. It has to be that way. Otherwise, the whole operation is an exercise in futility. Take away just the chemical agents, and the weapons-making facilities can replace them at will.
Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing with Iran. It would deactivate its 20 percent enriched uranium, which besides being chemically reversible, is quickly replaceable because Iran retains its 3.5 percent enriched uranium, which can be enriched to 20 percent in less than a month.
Result: Sanctions relief that leaves Iran’s nuclear infrastructure untouched, including — and this is where the French gagged — the plutonium facility at Arak, a defiant alternate path to a nuclear weapon.
The point is blindingly simple. Unless you dismantle the centrifuges and prevent the manufacture of new ones, Iran will be perpetually just a few months away from going nuclear. This agreement, which is now reportedly being drafted to allow Iran to interpret it as granting the “right” to enrich uranium, constitutes the West legitimizing Iran’s status as a threshold nuclear state.
Don’t worry, we are assured. The sanctions relief is reversible. Nonsense. It was extraordinarily difficult to cobble together the current sanctions. It took endless years of overcoming Russian, Chinese and Indian recalcitrance, together with foot-dragging from Europeans making a pretty penny from Iran.
Ron Fournier examines how the White House is controlling the media by not allowing independent media photographers to take pictures of the President and instead just issuing the White House photographer's pictures which seek to continue the iconography of Barack Obama.
The National Journal explains how Harry Reid maintains party discipline in the Senate.
Joseph Epstein is exactly right about how the Presidential Medal of Freedom has declined to being an ideological celebration of a president's own party rather than any real recognition of true contributions.