Thursday, September 17, 2009

How 60 becomes the new 50

Jon Bernstein does a really nice job tearing apart Carl Hulse's story about health reform negotiations in today's NYT. It's just kind of a dumb story about how the Democrats want health reform to pass the Senate and aren't sure whether that will happen. A giveaway is this quote by Chris Dodd:
I wouldn’t say today with absolute certainty that you could get to 60, but it would be just as foolish to say you can’t get there either. This is the Senate.
In other words, either we'll pass a bill or we won't. I don't blame Dodd for this vapid response. If someone asked you whether a bill would pass, what else could you say?

But the main thing that irked me (other than, as Bernstein points out, the failure to note that Massachusetts may shortly fill Kennedy's seat in the Senate) was the continuing acceptance of supermajoritarianism as the norm in the Senate and majority rule as the exception:
With the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Democrats control 59 seats, meaning they need at least one Republican to join them if they are to proceed without employing a procedural shortcut that could cause havoc in the Senate.
It's just taken as a given that you need 60 seats to pass anything in the Senate. Using a different procedure that would pass legislation by majority vote would "cause havoc." No context, no sense that this routinized threat of a filibuster by the minority party is actually historically anomalous, no acknowledgment that the president's signature platform piece "failing" 59-40 would cause other forms of havoc.

Which leaves us no smarter for having read this article and perhaps slightly dumber.

1 comment:

Shannon said...

I really think at some point, the majority party (whether it be the Dems now or the Reps at some future point) have to call this bluff. Make 'em bring out the cots. Of course, they need to pick their issue so that it makes the minority look bad (i.e. expansion of health care for poor kids or the like), but until this happens, the 60 myth will prevail.