Progressivism vs. the Filibuster

By Will, George F | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

Progressivism vs. the Filibuster


Will, George F, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


WASHINGTON

When evaluating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's ideas for making the Senate more like the House, consider the source. Reid, D- Nev., is just a legislative mechanic trying to make Congress' machinery efficiently responsive to his party's progressivism.

Progressives think the "living" Constitution gives government powers sufficient for whatever its ambitions are, enabling it to respond quickly to clamorous majorities. Hence the progressive campaign to substantially weaken senators' ability to use filibusters to delay action.

In 1917, the Senate adopted the cloture rule whereby debate could be ended by a two-thirds majority vote. In 1975, the requirement was lowered to three-fifths. With another weakening of minority rights, the Senate will resemble the House, where the majority controls the process and the disregarded minority can only hope to one day become the majority and repay disregard in kind.

The point of progressivism is to progress up from the Founders' fetish with limiting government and restraining majorities. Hence progressives' animus against the filibuster.

Since there have been 50 states, Republicans have never had 60 senators. Democrats have had that many after 11 elections. Both parties are situational ethicists -- in 2005, a GOP Senate majority threatened to forbid filibusters of judicial nominees during George W. Bush's administration. However, when filibusters impede the liberal agenda, excited editorials and solemn seminars deplore the "constitutional crisis" of a "dysfunctional Congress."

Recourse to filibusters has increased with the 70 times Reid has used a parliamentary device ("filling the tree") to limit and even deny the minority's right to offer amendments to legislation. Furthermore, 69 times Reid has bypassed committees, bringing bills written in private directly to the Senate floor without GOP participation. …

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