More Senate Democratic Whining

Andrew Sullivan gets another pathetic whine from a Senate Democratic chief of staff.

Andrew Sullivan gets a pathetic whine from a Senate Dem chief of staff:

100% of Senate Democrats support healthcare reform (all 59 of them), but because of the antiquated, undemocratic filibuster rule, which is being used as a daily weapon by Senate Republicans, we aren’t able to pass it.  As a Chief of Staff to a Democratic Senator, I can’t tell you how dispiriting it is to read stuff like what you wrote–and which I read on other weblogs and hear from my friends…

I understand the anger at not passing healthcare reform–hell, I feel it, too–but folks’ anger should be focused on 1) the tool that is being used to obstruct passage, and 2) those who are using the tool!  There needs to be a movement to change this rule–and believe me, it won’t be easy (it’s my understanding it takes 67 votes to change Senate rules)–but you can play an important role in helping folks understand the need to do so.  However, calling us a “useless bunch of disorganized morons and cowards” because of our inability to reach 60 votes–a very difficult goal to reach when you don’t have a single Republican willing to support you–is neither fair nor accurate.

This is completely disingenuous.  Reconciliation bills cannot be filibustered; debate is cut off after 20 hours.  If 59 Senate Democrats really support health care reform, they could use the reconciliation vehicle from last year, work closely with House Dems to write good amendments to it, and send it to the House.  The House could then pass the reconciliation vehicle together with the Senate bill, and send both to the President.

Yes, the filibuster is terrible, and yes, the Republicans are awful.  but the Democrats can now do this all by themselves through the reconciliation vehicle.  And they could also add in Obama’s proposed tax on finance executive salaries.

But what have we heard from Senate Democrats?  Only from Lieberman and Bayh and the moral cretin Dianne Feinstein that we need to “go slower.”  Sorry, guys.  Andrew is right: you are a “useless bunch of disorganized morons and cowards.”

Grow a pair.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

14 thoughts on “More Senate Democratic Whining”

  1. Yeah, they could not only hang themselves high, they could weave the rope themselves, too. They could do all that, and jump off a cliff the next day.

    They just don't want to.

  2. Thank you for this, Jonathan. Your outrage is entirely appropriate. May I add one additional option for the Dems: nuke the filibuster. Joe Biden declares it unconstitutional and void. There is an objection. All 59 good-hearted Dems then vote to sustain Biden's ruling. Filibuster — gone; majority rule restored.

    Reconciliation will do for healthcare. The nuclear option is best saved for when the Republicans obstruct socking it to Wall Street.

  3. If the Coakley pitch was 'vote for me or health care reform is dead!', it's a bit hard to come back and say 'just kidding, we can still do it.'

    My answer is that I didn't get asked for advice on MA Senate, so yeah, fix it however you can. And for the love of god, quit making a mantra of 60 votes, which just reinforces the pattern. From now on, we know anything that is remotely controversial will have to be done at the reconciliation level.

    Plan for it – I'm looking at you C02.

  4. Vladimir: It won't be quite that easy. Nelson, Lieberman, et al. derived all their power from being the 60th most liberal senator, which was power derived entirely from the filibuster. Eliminate the filibuster and all of a sudden it's the 50th most liberal senator that matters, and suddenly the foot dragging moderates are SOL. And that's just the pols whose current prestige is based on the rule, there are going to be others who oppose getting rid of it because of tradition, those who think it's a bald faced power grab and those who are just scared of the potential blowback. It would be a fight to 51, and you'd want to make damn sure you had the 51 before you took that shot.

    And the truth is I don't actually know what the blowback would be for that kind of move, although at this point I would totally support it. And, of course things can change going forward, but if the current Democrats were capable of such a hardball move, I sincerely doubt we'd be in this god awful mess to begin with.

  5. ACLS: The blowback for such a move will be — zero. There is never, ever, ever blowback for procedural irregularity (remember the Rs passing "death tax" reform through reconciliation; hell, remember Bush v. Gore?). And eliminating the filibuster wouldn't be irregularity, but removing irregularity. The voters don't care or quickly forget about that stuff, and only care about results. As for Lieberman, Nelson, and the others, the President needs, to borrow Jonathan's words, "grow a pair" and demand that the Senate reform itself by, among other things, eliminating holds and the filibuster. If he actually talked about it, alot, maybe in his state of the union, Ben Nelson and the pro-filibuster GOP would look pretty trivial indeed.

    It's easy, ACLS, to say something is impossible or impractical. It takes courage to take on the conventional wisdom, to dream big, and to do the right thing. And that's what needs to be done, I think every sane person would agree.

  6. And let's add that Reid&Co. pissed away months trying for a "bipartisan" bill that was never a possibility. Without that we would have reform already. The staffer complains about not having "a single Republican willing to support you." But if that's the case why not just go ahead without any Republicans, especially Olympia "Lucy" Snowe.

  7. You socialist whackos don't get it. You just don't get America do you. You're trying to cram something down the public's throat that they simply don't want. So keep calling for Dems to push harder. If they listen to you crazies, they're gonna push their way right out of a job (and out of the majority) in 2010. Fine with me.

  8. ACLS says:

    "Vladimir: It won’t be quite that easy. Nelson, Lieberman, et al. derived all their power from being the 60th most liberal senator, which was power derived entirely from the filibuster. Eliminate the filibuster and all of a sudden it’s the 50th most liberal senator that matters, and suddenly the foot dragging moderates are SOL. And that’s just the pols whose current prestige is based on the rule, there are going to be others who oppose getting rid of it because of tradition, those who think it’s a bald faced power grab and those who are just scared of the potential blowback. It would be a fight to 51, and you’d want to make damn sure you had the 51 before you took that shot."

    ACLS, what puzzles me is that Lieberman and the Gang O'Six or So have now sharply reduced *their* power; the GOP will still maintain ~99% discipline, which means that they hold the blocking power on most things. And their clear strategy is to use that as far as possible (stopping juuuuuuuuuust short of an explicit government shut-down, a la Gringrich).

    Given the that GOP is well-positioned to use Democratic fecklessness to increase their gains in the mid-terms, we're now looking at large likely gains. Nate Silver @ 538 is putting the median Dem share of the Senate at 53 seats after the election (I assume that he's assuming Liberman stays Dem, but at that point he's a reliable GOP vote). This would mean that Lieberman and the Gang O'Six or So would find themselves in a much less powerful position for '11-'12. After which Lieberman is out (from what I've heard, he's now poison in Connecticut). I'm guessing the Lieberman is anticipating several million $ from the insurance companies (and he's been a pure back-stabbing b*stard for quite some time, out of pure evil), but what's in it for the rest of them?

    What is clear to me is that at this point Obama has two options:

    1) Get f*cked for the rest of his term, until he's an object of mockery among GOPpers and independents,

    2) Find some way of overcoming Senate obstruction.

    And in (2), sweetness-and-light ain't going to work, because he's dealing with people who strongly desire his destruction. He best find some ways to twist some arms.

    Vladimir says:

    "ACLS: The blowback for such a move will be — zero. There is never, ever, ever blowback for procedural irregularity (remember the Rs passing “death tax” reform through reconciliation; hell, remember Bush v. Gore?). And eliminating the filibuster wouldn’t be irregularity, but removing irregularity. The voters don’t care or quickly forget about that stuff, and only care about results. "

    I agree, very strongly. I think by now that it's proven that the American people's respect (or submission) to the guy with the proven bigus dickus outweighs any respect for adherence to alleged procedure and sportsmanship. And that's among the minority who strongly care about alleged procedure and sportsmanship; I'd guess that at least 60% will go along/oppose out of purely partisan alignment.

    The only way that there's blowback is if one party clearly f*cks things into the ground, hard – and we have just seen the half-life on that blowback; somebody waking up from a 10-year coma would have to look hard to realize that Obama didn't f*ck the country up.

  9. Why is it that HCR opponents have to lie about people wanting HCR? Wasn't the last election result a function of two things? 1) Relief that the long 8 year outrage fatigue would be over 2) A broad social agenda to return some security to the commonweal? Marginalized minority party members who must use words like 'socialist' don't have the facts on their side. This should be a clue for the sackless, spineless coughsies sitting there getting pushed around by mouth-breathers. Sheesh. I think the 'Grow A PAIR' phrase should be used widely.

  10. I seem to recall that 60 seats was never guaranteed, was not secured for several months thanks to Franken's razor-thin win, and was always dependent on Joe Lieberman, known by all to be flakier than a fine French croissant. It was always day to day due to the health not just of Kennedy but also Byrd, Johnson and . . . everybody! (Little known point: we are all day-to-day.) In fact, 59 seats would actually have been a good result from the '08 elections. So if that had happened . . . would the Democrats have said last November, "Oh, hell, this is hopeless, Republicans do whatever you want, we'll try again in two years"? No? Well, then, WHAT'S THE TRAGEDY? If the situation were reversed, the Republicans would kick the Democrats asses around the block every day and twice on Sunday. If the Democrats tried to use cloture or holds to stop things, they would ignore it or change the rules.

  11. Ken D.,

    In fact, 59 seats would actually have been a good result from the ‘08 elections. So if that had happened . . . would the Democrats have said last November, “Oh, hell, this is hopeless, Republicans do whatever you want, we’ll try again in two years”? No? Well, then, WHAT’S THE TRAGEDY? If the situation were reversed, the Republicans would kick the Democrats asses around the block every day and twice on Sunday. If the Democrats tried to use cloture or holds to stop things, they would ignore it or change the rules.

    Well said. Amen.

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