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Delusion in DC

Andrew Moylan
February 26, 2010

I try to read as many lefty blogs as I can, not just to get intelligence about what the "other" side is doing, but to test my own assumptions.  One of the blogs I read is FireDogLake, a popular site started by Jane Hamsher.  I've actually met Jane and she's very intelligent and reasonable, though we obviously disagree on many issues.  Another FDL blogger named Jon Walker, though, seems to have thrown the "reasonable" part right out the window with his latest post where he advocates employing the "nuclear option" in order to pass health care legislation through the Senate.

He starts by bemoaning the practice of circumventing the rule that all revenue bills originate in the House of Representatives.  On this point, he is absolutely right.  Leaders from both parties have routinely ignored the rule by using a loophole allowing the Senate to take up an unrelated piece of House legislation, only to strike all language after the enacting clause and replace it with the bill of the day (in this case, health care).

He then goes on to advocate that Senate Leadership use the "nuclear option" by changing Senate rules to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for the filibuster.  I have some initial thoughts, but I don't think I'm well-versed enough in all of the implications to really mount a spirited defense or attack of the merits of the 60-vote threshold here.  It might be good, it might be bad, but that's not the point I'm making in this post.  I'm saying that Mr. Walker appears to be overlooking just how revolutionary a move this would be.  After all, there's a reason that it has been named the "nuclear option."

To put it succinctly, tradition matters a great deal in the United States Senate.  Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, but it matters a lot.  In discussions with a Senate staffer recently over a package of amendments that were going to be voted on, I asked why they wouldn't just object to their consideration in the first place and force a vote.  The reason: tradition.  The Majority and Minority Leaders had agreed upon a votes on a certain number of amendments, some of which had topics that were unspecified.  When the Majority filed an amendment the Minority didn't like, they could theoretically have blown up the prior agreement by objecting to unanimous consent and forcing a vote, but they refrained because of the powerful role of Senate tradition.  After all, if they torpedoed that agreement, it could theoretically lead to a bare-knuckles parliamentary brawl in the future that would make the health care debate look tame by comparison.

So, it's not just as simple as saying, "use your powers to push health care legislation through and be done with it."  Tradition is still important, and especially so when there is an outside chance that the parties could be switching Majority-Minority status after November.


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Submitted by NotBeth at: March 4, 2010
It doesn't make any sense to me that there's any freedom at all left in the country. Why not just bureaucratize everything and push everybody around like cattle in every realm of life? Why not just create a complete tyranny that leaves people with no chance to make any of their own decisions whatever about their own time and money? We should get rid of whatever freedom remains in the health care industry and then destroy freedom in the other sectors. I just don't understand why we're not doing this. I don't understand. It just doesn't make any sense to me.

Submitted by Beth at: February 28, 2010
From what I understand, the Bush tax cuts of 2003 and 2005 were passed by the "nuclear option" which I believe is called reconciliation. This is what makes it so amazing that there is such outrage over it being used for health insurance reform. It is also surprising that there is so much outrage over the cost of the reform, since the tax cuts were not paid for and from what I have read, ended up costing over 2 trillion dollars and the medicare prescription plan was not paid for. That doesn't make it ok to continue to just spend money, but the amount of animosity and even threats of violence are completely out of hand. There is so much talk by some about how prayer should be allowed in school and concern with whether in God We Trust is on our money, and we know that some people are not able to get the health care they need because of the cost and yet we are not doing everything possible to rectify that situation. It just doesn't make any sense to me.