When did our democracy go so far off the rails?

Why I am still hopeful that House Democrats will do what I suggested last week and simply pass the Senate’s bill and fix it through reconciliation, Senate Democrats (at least some of them) are making it difficult to believe that reconciliation will be a viable option.  For those who do not know, reconciliation is a procedure by which the Senate can pass certain measure (that have an impact on the budget and revenues) by a simple majority, without the possibility of a filibuster.  You know, the way a democracy is supposed to work.

It is bad enough that our democracy has a legislative body where Senators from Utah and Wyoming, who represent less people (combined) then live my current-hometown, have the same voting power as Senators from California, Texas, and New York.  But now you need to have 60 votes in the senate to pass anything. (See below).

In response to calls to amending any health care bill through reconciliation, Senator Blanch Lincoln (D-AR) says:

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) rejected using the budget reconciliation process to pass health reform legislation on Tuesday.

Lincoln joined Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) to reject using the parliamentary maneuver bypassing the 60-vote majority needed in the Senate to bypass a filibuster in order to pass Democrats’ health reform bill.

“I am opposed to and will fight against any attempts to push through changes to the Senate health insurance reform legislation by using budget reconciliation tactics that would allow the Senate to pass a package of changes to our original bill with 51 votes,” she said in a statement. “I will not accept any last-minute efforts to force changes to health insurance reform issues through budget reconciliation, and neither will Arkansans.”

Just look at how she refers to the different voting procedure (60-vote majority v. 51 votes).  First, a 60-vote majority, has a different name–it is called a SUPERMAJORITY.  We have specific places in the constitution where more than a majority vote is required:  (1) ratification of a treaty, (2) conviction of a president on articles of  impeachment, and (3) overriding a presidential veto (to name a few).  Passage of bills through each house of congress is not one of those places.  Yet, Senators in their infinite wisdom, have so required.  While the founders were worried about tyranny of the majority, what we have in the senate is tyranny of the minority.  And it is a minority of senators, apart from those from texas, that represent the smallest states in the union.  Last time I checked, the 59 Democratic senators represent 63% of the population (assigning 1/2 of a state’s population to each senator).  It might be one thing if the minority party, who was insisting on using the filibuster, actually represented a majority of the electorate.  But most republicans senators come from small southern and western states.

This is not absolve Democrats who used their filibuster power to block much of the Bush agenda, but at some point soon we will actually have to govern.  And governing in a democracy is done by majority rule, not Supermajority rule.

PS–Technically, you only need a simple majority to pass a bill.  You need 60 votes to have an actual vote on the bill.  This is like saying that a ban the use of money to pay for advertisements advocating the election or defeat of a candidate is not a ban on speech advocating the election or defeat of a candidate.  That pin head is not big enough to dance on (you can see where my mind has been this week).


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