Friday, November 13, 2009

Today in Palimentary Procedure

Ezra Klein has an interview with a guy writing a book about the filibuster... pretty interesting if you're one of those people (and I certainly am!) wondering why the Dems don't make health care reform opponents actually read from the phone book or whatever, instead of folding like a lawn chair when somebody just threatens to filibuster. I mean, why are we letting them get off so easy? Well, it turns out that... as you might suspect... there are several reasons... but the biggest one seems to be that you need 50 Democrats on the floor to maintain quorum, but only one Republican needs to be there to filibuster. So you're basically ceding the cable news networks to the other side, and you can't do all the things... like fundraising... that Senators would rather do, instead of actually... you know... legislating. But I have to say, the old way sounds a lot more fun than the new way:
This vision of the filibuster is relatively different from the one the media has. You present it as a procedural war where you're waiting for the other side to make mistake so you can ram through your vote. The more general conception, I think, is that it's more like a long PR war where you wait for public opinion to break in one direction or another.

Traditionally, it's like a football game. You've got a running back who has to find a gap in an opponent's defense and he waits to find one guy who's tripped and he zips through to find a touchdown. In the book, there's one story from 1988 when the majority won because the guy who was filibustering was blind, and he thought that the guy who was going to take the floor for him wasn't. He sat down and the Republicans jumped up and took their vote. In 1950, a senator from Nevada gets laryngitis. These days, the majority would say, oh, we'd never take advantage of someone's laryngitis. But back then, they passed the bill, because the guy couldn't speak for it.

I would gladly trade Harry Reid and Co for Senators that ram a bill through because of someone's laryngitis. In a heartbeat. I don't think I'm alone here.

graph from flickr user myglesias used under a Creative Commons license