Sunday, November 24, 2013

Right-wingers on the filibuster -- it's the old Ralph Kramden con: "Heads I win, tails you lose"


"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."
-- Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)

"You will no doubt come to regret this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think."

by Ken

You do see the difference between what Senator Levin and Miss Mitch are saying, don't you?

Senator Levin is talking about the real prospect of a "tyranny of the majority," not to be confused with what a piece of lying filth like George Will throws the phrase around. When Lying George says it, what he means is, "Those goddamn Democrats will get away with murder." You know, like when he discovered that Barack Obama was working feverishly to concentrate as much power as possible in the executive branch, which was an out-and-out lie, even forgetting for a moment that at that very time congressional Republicans were working day and night to strip the president of as much power as they could. Miraculously, Lying George discovered this nonexistent executive-branch power grab after eight years of failing to utter a peep while "Chimpy the Prez" Bush and the lowlifes around him were doing exactly that. Either Georgie was too stupid to notice, or too dishonest to tell the truth about either Bush or Obama. Take your pick.

Now, as to what Miss Mitch is saying, fortunately it has moments of candor every now and then, like when it openly acknowledged that Republicans' number-one priority during the Obama first term was to make sure that he was a one-term president. When it tells Senate Democrats, "You will no doubt come to regret this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think," what it's really saying is, "You had a chance to stop me before I kill."

I wrote the other day that whatever happened with the filibuster rule, the Republicans would win, for the simple reason that they have no principles except winning. Oh, in their heads they imagine they have principles, but that's just the detritus glopping up their brains. They're so persuaded of the virtue of that glop, however, that in some niche of their diseased brains, they really believe they're justified in doing whatever they have to do to win. And so we have Miss Mitch announcing that it and its kind will now do whatever they damned feel like.

There's another way of looking at Senator Levin's opposition to the way the Democrats made their rule change: as one of the last remaining Senate "Old Bulls" holding out against newer Senate Dems' reform-mindedness, a case that the Washington Post's Paul Kane makes in "In filibuster vote, 'Old Bull' Democrats in Senate take back seat to young bucks." But I think it's worth listening to the senator's warning in more detailed form:
We need to change the rules, but to change it in the way we changed it today means there are no rules except as the majority wants them. This precedent is going to be used, I fear, to change the rules on consideration of legislation, and down the road -- we don’t know how far down the road; we never know that in a democracy -- but, down the road, the hard-won protections and benefits for our people's health and welfare will be lost.
Here again is Miss Mitch: "You will no doubt come to regret this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think." Right-o, Dems will regret it as soon as the Miss can make them. It's the old Ralph Kramden gambit: Heads I win, tails you lose.

Most of the above quotes come from Dana Milbank's Washington Post column "The Democrats' naked power grab." The title doesn't seem to me to totally represent Dana's argument, though we'll see in a moment where it comes from. Notably, he's pretty clear about the provocation presented by the Senate Republicans.
Certainly, Republicans have abused the dilatory tactics that Senate minorities have, for centuries, used with greater responsibility; they seem intent on bringing government to a halt. And the Senate in 2013 is hardly a healthy institution.

[Majority Leader Harry] 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.
It's true, though, that both of the above statements come with "but" qualifiers.

To the first, about the Senate now being "hardly a healthy institution" (links onsite):
Yet it has achieved far more than the House — passing bipartisan immigration legislation and a farm bill and working out deals to avoid default and to end the federal government shutdown — largely because, until Thursday, Senate rules required the majority party to win votes from the minority.>
To the second, about the majority leader's diagnosis of Republican obstruction as intolerable:
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.
Dana also quotes then-Sen. Joe Biden from the time of the Republicans' 2005 threat to deploy the nuclear option on the filibuster:
The nuclear option abandons America's sense of fair play . . . tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field. I say to my friends on the Republican side: You may own the field right now, but you won't own it forever. I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don't make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.
Joe was probably right. The only thing is, the playing field is never level when one side considers itself empowered to do whatever it can get away with to win.

Remember, heads I win, tails you lose.


For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."

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At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The media temptation is 'both sides to it', and clearly they haven't and they don't. That the Senate was able to pass bipartisan legislation and send it on to the House was NOT because the Senate required Republican votes to pass the legislation. That is putting the cart before the horse and is Milbank putting his head up his own ass to avoid the obvious political truth, which is that certain GOP senators needed to vote Yes on the aforementioned bipartisan legislation to prove their electability bonafides in their home states. The GOP merely allowed its warped House majority to do the dirty work instead of the more vulnerable GOP senators. Milbank must know this. However, it didn't fit his incorrect thesis. That is how the media gets warped, by people like Milbank fictionalizing what happens rather than just calling it like it is. That's also why journalists for the past 30 years have increasingly become both-sides-do-it stenographers: Because the media corporate bottom line weeds out actual, astute, and uncorruptible journalists.

At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Er, 'both sides DO it', of course.


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