The 112th Congress

Well, I haven’t written about politics since before the election, but with the 112th Congress starting tomorrow, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.  I’m not going to dwell too much on the so-called shellacking.  President Obama had to acknowledge the loss of the House, but under the circumstances, it was not nearly as bad as it could have been. More importantly, it was not nearly the repudiation of his policies that the Republicans believe it to be.  That being said, two years of Speaker Boehner will mean two years of unnecessary gridlock and leave Americans with a serious case of buyer’s remorse.  I’ll write more about that later.

Tonight, I want to write about the Democratic-held Senate.  There could be some very interesting and important rulemaking in the next few days or weeks in the Senate in the area of filibuster reform.  The filibuster has been romanticized by Frank Capra in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Aaron Sorkin in The West Wing (Season 2:  The Stackhouse Filibuster). In both instances, we were given the image of one man standing up to the tyranny of the majority and bringing the wheels of government to a screeching halt in the name of goodness and justice. 

That’s a nice image, but what do you do when a minority caucus uses the filibuster for an entire session of Congress to thwart the will of the American people?  I don’t know what else to call it when the Democrats begin the session with a 58-41 Senate majority, a 58% majority in the House, and a President elected with a margin greater than that with which his predecessor claimed a mandate.  Vowing to thwart the legislative agenda on which Obama was elected, the Republican minority, with the help of some complicit conservative Democrats made use of the filibuster with unprecedented frequency.

So what do you do when a minority abuses the rules in such a way as to make a mockery of the concept of majority rule?  Well, you change the rules.  That’s exactly what Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and company plan to do.  It’s not clear what, if any, reforms will be passed, but I have some thoughts on the matter.

I’m conflicted.  I find the manner in which the Republicans thumbed their noses at the will of the American people expressed in 2008 truly disgusting.  Having an inkling of how much better the first half of Obama’s first term could have been makes me want to blow up the arcane rules that allow minority rule in America.  At the same time, I believe that the filibuster is a good way to give voice to the minority…unless it’s abused.

So here’s my solution.  Go ahead and get rid of the filibuster in all cases except for the confirmation of federal judges.  This is warranted by the fact that federal judgeships are lifetime appointments.  Where a tax bill can be repealed, a judge much be impeached and removed by a 2/3 vote of the Senate.  For something that important and permanent, I think a supermajority is warranted.  However, I think that if a Senator is going to use the filibuster against a judge, they should have to own it.  They should have to stand in the well of the Senate and actively hold the floor for as long as they can. 

So, will my suggestion be adopted?  Let’s find out tomorrow.

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About Andrew

I'm a Christian, American, liberal, geeky, thoughtful, Northwest-transplanted Angeleno husband, father, and pundit who writes about anything he can think of.
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3 Responses to The 112th Congress

  1. Scott G says:

    Andrew, obviously I know little, if anything, about the life you live or the opinions you hold other than what I see on your blog and Facebook. We haven’t had a meaningful face-to-fact discussion in 15 years.

    So, as always, take anything I say about you personally with a grain of salt. However, please read what I have to say about politics and really take some time to actually look at the other side to the coin.

    It appears to me, that much like your emotional and irrational connection to the Rams logo (https://bluedrew.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/youthful-loyalties/) due to some childhood memories, the symbol of the donkey causes you to have an irrational devotion to all things liberal.

    I respect the little I know about you as an adult. Educated, dedicated family man, I presume you’re a hard worker at whatever job you do… but growing up in CA, attending the most liberal establishments possible (LAUSD and Oxy) seems to have warped your ability to look at topics objectively.

    For me, Bush wasn’t some type of messiah, he was the lesser of two evils. Likewise, Obama isn’t the devil, he is just one of the most inexperienced Presidents we have ever had leading one of the most power-hungry congresses in recent memory.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Obama shifted DRAMATICALLY away from the far left policies and rhetoric of 2007-2010 once Nancy Pelosi lost her power as Speaker of the House. I strongly believe that once the power plays and influence that Pelosi had (has) over the liberal caucus was diminished in November, it started to allow Obama to be the President he planned on being.

    Obama’s lack of experience allowed for a liberal majority congress to walk all over him and lead the discussion, that’s not what congress is suppose to do.

    However, the fact that you (and other people I know to be very intelligent) continue to unilaterally support all things Donkey and villainize all things Republican causes rational people like me to move farther to the other side of the aisle and just scream louder.

    Unrelenting support of one party or another is what has given rise to the comical programming on FOX News, the hacks on MSNBC nighttime, and the ultra-hyper-bias and factually incorrect blogesphere.

    From your posts:

    “…I’m not going to dwell too much on the so-called shellacking.  President Obama had to acknowledge the loss of the House, but under the circumstances, it was not nearly as bad as it could have been…” – Andrew

    Ironically, you begin contradicting yourself in the first line of the post. You cannot, as a rational thinker, gloss over the “so-called shellacking”, which is the will of the people to replace the party who was leading the country from 2008-2010… then go on later in your post to chastise Republicans for “thwart(ing) the will of the American people” based on their 2008 vote.

    It makes no sense to ignore the will of the people when they vote against you (in 2010), but champion their cause when the result is political victories for your party (in 2008).

    My new favorite contradiction by the left (and similar to your structure above) is all the hoopla over the Constitution as a document. I’m happy it’s being read aloud right now as I type the first time in decades.

    Since House Republicans announced that they want relevant sections of the Constitution read and examined before enacting new laws or considering new bills, the far left has been going ape-shit.

    Commentators and contributors to MSNBC, The Daily Kos, the Huffington post, and just about every other left leaning news source has taken it upon themselves to discuss how old, out-dated, and somewhat irrelevant the Constitution actually is.

    I can’t believe the level of outrage from the left over this suggestion that our founding document be read and examined by Congress. Of course it’s gimmicky, but if it’s done in an attempt to slow down the amount of legislation and Government that comes out of Washington, we should all be happy with it.

    However, to the left, all the sudden the Constitution isn’t suppose to be that important, it’s just a gimmick.

    However, 6-7 years ago, when Bush was dealing with much more pressing matters like national security and wire-taps, it was this same document, and the same liberal media which pointed to the Constitution repeatedly as proof that Bush was some type of dictator.

    I remember hearing numerous times about how Bush was tearing up the Constitution. I think one daily Kos article actually said Bush was shitting on the Constitution, our countries most important document.

    Why was the Constitution so relevant and possessed so much binding power with Democrats and Liberals in 2002, but not so much now in 2010? Is it because the document is now (famously) more than 100 years old (LOL):

    Back to your original sentence and my problem with it. What if we just reverse the order of the proses in order to serve my opinion. Clearly you could see the fault in the logic if the argument went like this:

    “I’m not going to dwell on the fact that Obama was so widely supported, that Democrats destroyed Republicans in the 2008 elections, or that Obama’s approval rating is still in the high 40’s. Instead, lets talk about how Democrats will try to block everything going forward even though the American people have spoken and clearly want Republicans back in charge in 2010” –

    You, and other liberals, would blow a gasket if Republicans tried to frame the argument in this manner. Then you go on to say this:

    “…Here is my problem More importantly, it was not nearly the repudiation of his policies that the Republicans believe it to be.  That being said, two years of Speaker Boehner will mean two years of unnecessary gridlock and leave Americans with a serious case of buyer’s remorse.” – Andrew

    This is so incorrect, that if you weren’t talking about the future of this country, it would be comical. How many times did you hear some right wing mouth piece (Limbaugh, O’Reiley, Hannity) in 2008 talk about how they “knew” exactly what Obama was going to do and how horrible it was going to be.

    Some of those predictions may have come true; however, the sheer ignorance of “knowing” what the next two years would bring is simply ridiculous. Furthermore, your point has already been contradicted by news reports released today that Boehner is going to introduce legislation that makes it EASIER for the MINORITY party in Congress to be part of the process.

    If nothing more than just a gesture, at least this shows Boehner is ready to play ball with Democrats and the minority members of the House.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2011/01/04/oh-my-boehner-to-introduce-house-rules-giving-minority-party-more-power/

    The fact that the left-over Liberal members of the 111th Congress are now screaming for, and promising more bi-partisanship is comical. Where was bi-partisan ship the last two years when they were in control of all three houses (The Senate, The House, and The White-House)?

    If you think about it critically for a moment… both parties got a TON of what they wanted over the last two years through Congress.

    Just to name a few.

    Democrats kept control of the Senate in 2010, got health care passed, got the stimulus bill they wanted, got unemployment extended, and a handful of other important “liberal” pieces of legislation.

    In the meantime, Republicans got to manage the war in Iraq and the withdrawal on the time table set by McCain / Bush, they limited the public option in Health-care, Gitmo is still open and trials / prisoners did not get moved to US soil, the Bush tax cuts got extended.

    Virtually every program from welfare to unemployment to defense to the environment got MORE money.

    Literally there was SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE in the last two years. Yet Gallup Polls show the approval ratings of Congress over the last four years to be at less than 20%. I agree the economy is a factor in this approval rating… but it can’t be overlooked that voters soured on one of the most liberal Congress in history.

    Clearly Politicians (especially those in Congress on both sides of the aisle) have misread the American public. Ironically, even in down economic times, Americans actually don’t want more-and-more-and-more-and-more…. they want a little bit less, they want a smaller government, they WANT filibusters that prevent politicians from delivering more spending run amuck… that’s what this last election was about.

    Hopefully Boehner can deliver. More importantly, when the mob-mentality of 2010 voters who wanted to cut programs and spending (across the board) comes down to affecting individuals and their pocket books, I hope they remember the reasons they voted as they did.

    Furthermore, when you try to qualify the term “shellacking” with the term “so-called”, as you did, it is obviously an attempt to belittle the fact that democrats just got their butts kicked across the board.

    Of course it was a horrible year to be an incumbent. Had McCain won, I’m sure more Republican seats would have been in danger. However, even if we take away 30% of the “lost seats” held by democrats as some type of incumbent disadvantage, you still have one of the top four turn-overs of Congress in history.

    It’s a pathetic excuse by you and other liberals to say that when voters went to the polls to vote for Obama over McCain in 2008, it was because voters are finally intelligent, informed on the issues, and enlightened enough to vote for the better candidate (who just happens to be black).

    However, when voters chose red over blue as they did in 2010, it’s because voters are “scared”, “uninformed”, “race-baited by tea-parties”, or just ignorant to the fact that it was really the evil Republican filibuster that made everything go so wrong over the last two years. You can’t have it both ways in just a two year span. You can’t claim voters informed in 2008 when you win, but ignorant in 2010 when you lose.

    “…but what do you do when a minority caucus uses the filibuster for an entire session of Congress to thwart the will of the American people?…  the Republican minority, with the help of some complicit conservative Democrats made use of the filibuster with unprecedented frequency…” – Andrew

    Again, we reach a laughable status on the point you are trying to make here. If there is a congressional rule in place, and one party (or one Congressman) wants to use that rule excessively, it’s their right. It’s part of the process.
    The next time that Congressman or party is up for election, the people can judge these actions and vote accordingly.

    Where your argument falls on its face is the fact that the filibuster was used extensively by Republicans -AND- it’s BECAUSE of these stands against the majority that the next election cycle brought an avalanche of seats back into the Republican caucus.

    Your current thesis is completely flawed. It’s like me saying “there is this romanticized view of home ownership in America, so the Government created this department (or rule) called Fannie Mae to allow more home-ownership to take place. But this must be a bad thing because it turns out that with this department (or rule) in place, more people actually bought houses and like the results.”

    “… I find the manner in which the Republicans thumbed their noses at the will of the American people expressed in 2008 truly disgusting.  Having an inkling of how much better the first half of Obama’s first term could have been makes me want to blow up the arcane rules that allow minority rule in America…”  -Andrew

    So, are you suggesting a one party system? Or do you just want democrats to be in control at all times regardless of how Americans vote?

    Will you be similarly disgusted when Pelosi and company use the filibuster in the house to block Republican sponsored legislation?

    It appears to me, by liberal standards, the first two years of Obama’s term was VERY GOOD. He got a majority of what he wanted to get done, done. But voters disagreed and sent a lot of his minions packing.

    “…Where a tax bill can be repealed, a judge much be impeached and removed by a 2/3 vote of the Senate.  For something that important and permanent, I think a supermajority is warranted…” -Andrew

    How about this. How about we accept that fact that once ANY government program, agency, policy, tax increase, or systematic change to government goes into place, it virtually NEVER goes away.

    For all the hoopla about the “rich” getting this huge tax break, the truth is the Government never gives back what they are taking, and it never gives up a program or tax. Alternate programs like the AMT have ensured that even with these amazing tax breaks for the “rich”… the government is still getting an every increasing piece of the pie from working Americans:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/04/AR2011010404813.html

    So how about we require all bills, changes to the tax code, impeachments, or appointments to pass a 2/3rd majority? Then Congress and the President would absolutely have to work together and it would end the constant campaign cycle of hold-outs and filibusters.

    *** please excuse the typos, replying from work and don’t have spell check within your blog ***

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