This is a first for me: past malakas have all been people or reasonable facsimiles thereof. I was originally planning to pick Holy Joe Lieberman as the personification of Senatorial malakatude. But Holy Joe, for alll his unprincipled pomposity and posturing, is merely a symptom of the disease that ails the US Senate. By most counts there were anywhere between 51-56 votes for a public option and 55-59 for a medicare buy in.
I’m actually old enough to remember when *every* major piece of major legislation did NOT require a cloture vote. It’s simply ridiculous that a handful of recalcitrant Senators can hold the country hostage. Tom Harkin and-get ready to laugh-Holy Joe proposed doing away with the filibuster back in the Nineties but got nowhere. Senator Harkin has mentioned revisiting the notion and I *really* hopes he does. The problem is that Senators want to reserve the option to filibuster when they’re in the minority, which means change remains unlikely but a push should be made by progressive Senators.
The other rule that has totally screwed up the health care debate is the Byrd rule, which limits reconciliation (51 votes to pass anything) to monetary and budgetary matters. Health care reform arguably fits into that slot but there are important aspects (i.e. insurance reforms) that may not be subject to a reconciliation vote. The determination is up to the Senate parliamentarian but many close observers of the Senate think moving to reconciliation could make a poor bill really wretched by stripping away non-fiscal elements.
I worked on the House side of the Hill longer ago than I care to mention. I have *always* preferred the House to the Senate partially because the rarified atmosphere of the Senate is conducive to the sort of malakatude we’ve seen from Holy Joe and the Senator whomWonkette calls Nebraska diarrhea puddle, Ben Nelson. BUT the filibuster was once thought to be a thermonuclear option to be used rarely and only when a Senator felt passionately enough to go Huey P. Long on the Senate and talk endlessly about everything and nothing.
The degeneration of the health care bill has made a gloomy holiday season even gloomier. While I completely understand people who want to kill the biil, I’d like to see what happens if something passes the Senate and goes to conference with the House. Speaker Pelosi is a stronger advocate of reform than the Senate leadership and has fewer prima donnas and malakas in her caucus. So, like Senators Harkin, Wyden and Brown, I’m inclined to hold my nose and hope that the bill can be improved enough to move the sucker along. The other night on the Rachel Maddow Show, Senator Harkin likened the bill to a starter house that can be added on to and I hope he’s right but he may not be. The foundation may well be constructed on quicksand…
So, Senators heal thyself and at least try to purge the malakatude from your rules. Of course, that won’t deal with Executive branch malakatude but it would be a pretty good start.