An Effective US SenateNovember 12, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Posted in Dysfunctional Politics | 1 Comment
Tags: filibuster, Harry Reid, ineffective Senate, Mitch McConnell, secret hold, Senate, Senate hold
When Congress convenes next year, there will be a new Senate: the 113th. It will run for two years.
There is a brief window of opportunity at the opening session of each new Senate to revise the rules under which that Senate will operate.
Harry Reid has been the Senate Majority Leader since 2007. That period spans the 110th, 111th, and 112th Senates. He is presently most likely to be chosen as the Majority Leader of the new Senate, as well.
Historians will lay at Harry Reid’s doorstep his failure to see and fix, at the beginnings of at least three Senates, the structural problems that have allowed uncompromising political partisans to turn the Senate into an ineffective body. Those structural problems derive from the rules and traditions of the Senate. Both the rules and the traditions can and should be changed.
The symptoms of the constipation of the Senate include
– delayed and prevented appointments of qualified, honorable nominees
for positions that need to be filled for effective government,
– delayed and prevented votes on important legislation,
– cynicsm and disgust by the American public,
– reduced appreciation worldwide for the advantages of an open society.
Harry Reid appears to be too uncritically attached to the Senate’s traditions to recognize the full extent of the changes needed to rescue the Senate from irrelevance. His focus on the Senate’s traditions is destroying the Senate.
Even if he did come to understand what changes were needed, he probably lacks the spine to insist on them. An invertebrate Senate Majority Leader is not what the Senate needs right now.
(The invertebrates include the crustaceans. A crustacean has a shell, but no spine.)
Harry Reid should not be re-elected as the Majority Leader of the Senate unless he first guarantees that the Senate’s first order of business will be to revise its rules to eliminate all of the stalling mechanisms that now tie it in knots, so that it becomes an effective body.
The guiding principles of the revisions should be as follows:
(1) No individual or group can, without an immediately publicly stated reason by a publicly named Senator, delay voting on legislation or on an appointment.
Immediacy is required to prevent secret and anonymous holds, which use the present two-day delay to create de facto indefinite secret holds. Each hold must be associated with an individual Senator, not with a party’s spokesman in the Senate, nor with a party’s delegation as a whole.
(2) The plausibility and validity of the claimed reason for delay should itself be subject to immediate vote, with the outcome to be decided by a simple majority. Supermajorities should not be required, even to prevent a filibuster.
The Senate’s job is to reach decisions by voting. Discussion is a means to that end, but it cannot be allowed to become endless.
Here is a poll on these issues:
Please feel free to submit in the comment box your suggestions for making the Senate an effective body. The best submissions will be added to this blog post.