Monday, August 13, 2007

What's a poor( legislative) body to do?

So far in the 110th Congress, Senator Harry Reid and the boys have been made to look like eunuchs, thanks to a unified Republican strategy bent on holding up virtually every piece of legislation that comes their way, even some the Republicans want passed, too.

The Democrats razor-thin majority doesn't allow the luxury of employing bullying tactics to get legislation through, and the Republicans use of the filibuster threat has been enough to get Reid to cave in every time.

The House isn't saddled with the filibuster rule, or "super-majority" rules, or or any other of the Senates cumbersome procedures, so a great deal of good stuff is passed in that chamber, only to get held up in the Senate. The result of course is that nothing becomes law. Bush stays happy because a gang of obstructionist Senators march in lockstep to orders from the White House. This is true "tyranny of the minority".

The use of the filibuster threat, which is on pace to triple the record for any previous Congressional session, makes the Democrats look like stooges (not far off the mark, either), and the public perception of Congress is reflected in their 14% approval rating. The Republicans, so far, are winning this battle, because the Dems, as the majority party, are getting most of the flak.

The one time that Harry Reid decided to stand tough, forcing an actual filibuster on the Levin-Reed Amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill, which would have set a firm timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq, the ex-boxer stupidly telegraphed his punch when he announced that he would only force the filibuter for 24 hours. Good grief, I could hold out against CIA torture for that long, and as expected the Republicans held ranks through that dog and pony show and won the day. Reid pulled the bill from the floor.

Well, there actually is a way to turn the tables on the Republicans. Ady Barkan has written a very good article for The American Prospect, showing how it can be done. Read it here.

The solution is fairly simple. If the Democrats want to pass legislation through the Senate, they have to force the Republicans hand, and force them to filibuster for as long as it takes; days and weeks if necessary, while the country watches the Republicans holding up Senate business. Be kind of hard to blame the Dems for that, wouldn't it.

Senator Jim Webb's bill, which would require that troops are rotated home for at least as long as they were deployed, would be an ideal vehicle for a test of Republican resolve. How long do you think they will filibuster a bill helping the troops, and proving how little they care about them, before they collapse?

Another way would be to bring popular Democratic legislation to the floor attached as an amendment to a bill the Republicans desperately want. Something that would send their base into spasms of joy, like a bill to militarize our border with Mexico. How would the Republicans look to their voting base if they filibuster that one?

It can be done. It should be done. Reid doesn't need big cojones to do it- grape nuts would be enough.

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