The Senate Being The Senate: More On The Filibuster

See my previous posts here and here. Two post on the subject caught my eye this morning. First, David Waldman takes apart Senator Chris Dodd's rather ludicrous defense of the filibuster. As David points out, the constitutional structure of the Senate is not to obstruct legislation, but rather it was to protect smaller states from the dominance of the larger states. See, ironically considering Dodd is the Senator from Connecticut, the Connecticut Compromise.

Dodd has a better point when he says "people who haven't been here in the minority [. . .] don't understand how the rules, if intelligently used, can help protect against the tyranny of the majority and cause things to slow down[.] Now that is bad for small-d democracy, but as I have argued before, not necessarily bad for Democratic policies. Which brings me to the second post I want to highlight - Matt Yglesias' point that extreme conservatives and libertarians are also stymied by the filibuster. Matt writes:

David Boaz attempts to mount a libertarian defense of the filibuster: [". . .] Those of us who prefer liberty, limited government, and federalism appreciate the constitutional and traditional mechanisms that slow down the rush to legislation."

That’s a bizarre argument. Bills to reduce taxes are “legislation.” Bills to relax regulations are “legislation.” People who want to move public policy in the United States in a more libertarian direction support the idea of having congress pass legislation. As I was able to get Jonathan Bernstein to agree, the impact of the idiosyncratic elements of the American political system is to enhance the influence of interest groups and decrease the influence of ideologues and technocrats. Libertarians shouldn’t like that very much, it seems to me.

Seems obvious to me. And yet I am continually being told that eliminating the filibuster will only be a boon to progressive policy. As Yglesias ably points out, this is nonsense.

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    I'm not sure it's possible for the (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Anne on Thu Aug 05, 2010 at 11:40:21 AM EST
    Senate to be any more dysfunctional than it is, but I don't see getting rid of the filibuster as solving the problem; get private money out of elections, end the protection racket that is elected office today, and there might be half a chance of returning the attention of the Congress to the people's business, but until then, I don't think there's much that's going to help.

    Maybe, BTD (none / 0) (#1)
    by McKinless on Thu Aug 05, 2010 at 10:29:35 AM EST
    But my impression (yes, only an impression) is that the filibuster has stymied much more progressive legislation than it's headed off bad legislation. Am I in error in thinking that?

    When the Dems... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Thu Aug 05, 2010 at 10:50:18 AM EST
    ...NEVER call the Republican bluff to fillibuster, what is too often holding back progressive legislation is Dem cowardice to really fight, and that includes saying "Okay, you wanna make a circus of yourselves and shut this down...go right ahead, let's take a look at that act."

    But they never do. They live in fear.


    They are not afraid (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by lambertstrether on Thu Aug 05, 2010 at 11:28:19 AM EST
    Both legacy parties work together to achieve the policy outcomes that have, in fact, been achieved within the spectrum of discourse permitted by the neo-liberal Washington Consensus. (Normalizing permanently higher unemployment, bailing out the insurance companies, bailing out the banksters, and so forth).

    That's what "bipartisanship" means. And Obama ran on that.

    Psychology has nothing to do with it.


    It ticks me off (none / 0) (#5)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Aug 05, 2010 at 12:26:42 PM EST
    There were and still are many things at the administrations fingertips to solve many problems without new legislation.  Some of the "new" legislation made the existing checks the administration had and has even more toothless too.  So much focus on all this giant legislation that watered down what was needed and reinforced what is killing us is no prize.  And in my opinion has been the hallmark of an administration unwilling to fight for anything, seeming to actually believe the greatest good comes via mush in a current social political climate that is openly hostile to living, breathing, human beings.