Friday, January 22, 2010

Letting them filibuster

Welcome to our first installation of "Ask Enik."  Today's question:
Why don't the dems just let the Republicans filibuster health care? At first it would look like the R's are standing on principle, but the longer it goes on, the more time the Dem's have to calmly explain their position. Against the backdrop of Republicans reading the phone book into the Congressional record.
Well, it might work.  But one thing I'd suggest is that the Dems have had plenty of opportunity to calmly explain their position on health care, and they haven't done a particularly great job of it so far.  Polling suggests that most Americans actually favor the administration's health reform plans when those plans are explained, but the GOP has been far more effective in spreading fears about spiraling costs, death panels, etc.  It's not clear to me why the Dems would become more effective during a GOP filibuster.

Also, see Greg Koger's wonderful posts over at the Monkey Cage.  As he points out, senators made the decision a few decades back that agenda time was simply too valuable to let a few filibustering senators hijack it.  A truly effective filibuster could theoretically shut down the Senate for the rest of the year.  Congressional Dems and the Obama administration actually want to get some other stuff passed this year while they still have a (large) majority.

Finally, a true filibuster today probably wouldn't involve a whole lot of phone book-reading.  (I think Jonathan Bernstein posted about this, but I can't find the post.  Ah, there it is.)  Today, there are dozens of policy shops and hundreds of conservative writers who could generate days and days of material for filibustering Republicans to read.  Fox would likely televise many of the speeches live and portray the filibuster as a great patriotic act.  If anything, the Republicans would control the discussion during a filibuster more than they do now.

1 comment:

Jonathan Bernstein said...


The only way it works is if the group that's doing the filibuster (1) can be successfully threatened that they won't get their bill(s) considered if they chew up floor time, or (2) is shamed out of it. It's really, really, hard to see either being the case with the current GOP.