Monday, February 22, 2010

Bi-Partisanship in the Senate

Here is an example of why it might be a good thing that the Democrats no longer control 60 seats in the Senate.  When Democrats held a supposedly "filibuster-proof" majority, the Republicans could and did filibuster practically everything, requiring the Democrats to take full responsibility (and blame) for every bill passed or not passed by Congress, and allowing the Republicans the luxury of being able to sit back and reap the benefits of any perception among their constituents that the Obama agenda has not created an instant utopia.  But now, with the election of Scott Brown and the Democrats down to 59 votes in the Senate, the Republicans now must take responsibility (and blame) for any Democratic-backed bill that they do not allow to a vote.

So when a popular bill like a jobs bill comes down the pike, Republicans are not going to gain too many political points by filibustering it.  Today five--count 'em, five--Republican Senators voted for cloture to allow the jobs bill to come to the floor for a vote:  Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Kit Bond, and George Voinovich.    Harry Reid was elated of course, saying:  "I hope this is the beginning of a new day here in the Senate."  So welcome to bi-partisanship in Congress.

Not to brag too much, but I did predict a long time ago that there could be some benefits for the Democrats in controlling less than a 60 vote majority, and some dangers in having 60 votes.  We have now seen what happens when you try to rule Congress with a supposedly unbreakable majority that still required you to please people like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman.  You end up with health care legislation that the House is not too crazy about, and with both liberals and conservatives mad at you.  The alternative of having to attract only a few votes from a larger group of conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans may actually give the Democrats more and better options, and may produce more defensible outcomes.

7 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I just found myself "becoming a fan" of a Republican on facebook, who would have thought? I admit, it was mostly to 'Like' his decision to support the jobs bill. I'm glad to see the "moderate" Republicans have a leader to rally around and won't be scared off by the likes of the cult of Rush, McConnell or Boehner. As always, I enjoyed your insightful take.

    What do you think about the Bennett letter that has been circulating the Senate (http://tpmlivewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/02/running-list-of-senators-who-have-signed-bennets-public-option-letter.php)? I wrote both of my senators (WA) urging them to support the letter and a public option. Both wrote me back boilerplate responses about health care but I hope my letter is at least adding to a tally of citizens rallying for a public option.

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  3. I think they still don't have the votes for the public option. I happen to think that the public option is a really good idea, but it is perceived as the opening wedge for government-sponsored health insurance for everyone. And that is probably what it is, so no wonder there is such resistance to it!

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  4. The "jobs" bill was pure pork and will do nothing at all. Our economy is $14.3 trillion, the "jobs" bill is $15 billion. Why this money was not taken from the "stimulus" (more than half of which has not been spent) is beyond me.

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  5. The jobs bill is mostly a tax cut so you should like it, Harrison. Calling it pork is meaningless. What is pork? Pork is any kind of spending you don't like. So if I think a new weapons system is wasteful, that might be pork to me, but someone else might think it is very necessary. And if you think a new bridge or road or courthouse is unnecessary, you can call it pork, but other people would say those things are very useful.

    As far as the jobs bill goes, pretty much everyone agrees that it represents only a token effort. The point of it is to show that Congress is doing something about the problem, even if Congress is not doing much. The fact that it was approved on a bi-partisan basis, and the fact that Congress is doing something that is supposedly designed to solve a real problem should have some significance. Maybe it will only create a few jobs, but maybe it will also make people feel like something is being done, and that in itself is what starts to change people's expectations about the economy. When expectations change, then improvement in the economy starts to occur. So maybe this one tiny bill won't do much, but how can you be so sure it will do nothing at all?

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  6. Pork is wasteful spending like learning how snails reproduce.

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  7. How do you know that learning more about how snails reproduce will not save the world?

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