Malaka Of The Week: United States Senate Rules

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.

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14 thoughts on “Malaka Of The Week: United States Senate Rules

  1. pansypoo says:

    reconciliation won’t work. the best bits n pre-existing conditions wouldn’t be able to be included i hear. sigh. why did we have to SAY expanding medicare to younger people was great? or anything lieberfuckenputz will say he isn’t happy?
    big shout out to al franken’s ballsy STFU to joemental.

  2. soullite says:

    Pansy, none of this is our fault. Stop blaming voters. This is the fault of a bunch of selfish old men that would sent to the Guillotine if this country had any balls.

  3. Michael says:

    So what did you do during your stint on the Hill?

  4. Adrastos says:

    Legislative assistant type stuff; speechwriting.

  5. MapleStreet says:

    If I heard correctly, one of the votes on this is scheduled for Christmas Eve.
    I say pull out all the stops. Bring pictures of Tiny Tim and Ebeneezer Scrooge voting against healthcare on Christmas Eve. Pictures of the naysayers turning away Mary and Joseph. etc

  6. joejoejoe says:

    Voters think filibusters are like Jimmy Stewart standing up for the little guy. They don’t realize it’s a procedural maneuver and has nothing to do with people talking until they drop. If every Senator talked for 24 hours it would still be one hundred days to pass a bill, a lot less than it actually took for healthcare. Harry Reid should point that out. People aren’t actually talking about healthcare and continuing debate, they are continuing delay. Absent Senate Dems finding some balls and changing the rules (good luck) they could at least do some educating about how the rules actually work. Instead we get a Hindenburg worth of stale farts each day about honor and comity while the country rots to hell. I don’t really give a shit about how Senators used to treat each other in the old days. Those guys are all dead. The live ones are a gaggle of fucktards and unless it’s in the Constitution (treaties, confirmation, etc) then just stick to motherfucking majority rule. The way it runs now it’s like the Senate is some kind of apartheid government that denies rights to people who aren’t bitter white men. Forget freeing Mandela, free goddamn Barbara Boxer. She only got 6.9 million votes in her last election compared to Ben Nelson’s 377,907 and Nelson has MORE power to shape the bill? WTF!

  7. MAD says:

    Were you in favor of abrogating the Byrd rule during the periods of elephantine ascendancy? Sometimes gridlock can be a good thing. I really don’t want my insurance premiums raised to help pay for some bimbo’s botox treatments.

  8. daryljfontaine says:

    I think they should accept the 60 votes to pass the good of what’s left, the basic rescission and pre-existing conditions provisions, then introduce a new bill: “Health Care Reform: Just the Financial Bits” and go balls-out to pass it with 51 or more votes under reconciliation. Of course Nelson is being about as big a felchguzzler as Lieberman, so getting the first 60 might still be a problem.
    D

  9. pansypoo says:

    voters fault? no, everybody played their hands in front of spoiler joemental.
    only half eatered will work for that fucker.

  10. pansypoo says:

    and joemental went home to be jewish on saturday.

  11. joejoejoe says:

    Were you in favor of abrogating the Byrd rule during the periods of elephantine ascendancy?
    I never really gave a shit if Janice Rogers Brown was a federal judge or not if that’s what you mean. She’s a judge anyway and Gang of 14 members Snowe, Collins, Lieberman, McCain and Ben Nelson seem to have forgotten the filibuster was unconscionable obstructionism and remembered it’s their right as a Senator to get in the way so, yeah, fuck the Byrd rule.

  12. Adrastos says:

    Actually, MAD, Senate Republicans skirted the Byrd rule quite frequently when they ran the place.

  13. preznit giv me turkee says:

    what worries me is that trying to fix this down the road will be even harder when the insurance co.s have even more of a stranglehold on folks and the extra $$$ from 30M newsuckers customers.
    what I’d like to see in the jobs bill is a) run it straight through using reconciliation and 2) include a provision that anyone who has retired/has been laid off since 01.20.09 until 2012 and any small business (under 25 employees to start with gradual increases) can buy into Medicare immediately (at a cost to be determined to be revenue neutral by the CBO.) this will give a big incentive to folks to retire early and not worry about insurance/health care, thereby opening up a ton of jobs and also provide a safety net for those still looking. this will also spur entrepreneurs to start new businesses with an insurance/health care safety net and allow small businesses to get their insurance/health care costs under control and use the savings to hire new people

  14. Ted Smith says:

    Preserving the filibuster for future use by minority Democrats is a false goal. The Democrats don’t have the courage to assert themselves with an overwhelming majority. They will lack the courage to filibuster anything when they return to the minority. So eliminating the filibuster will only eliminate a Republican weapon. This would be similar to David eliminating the enemy weapon called Goliath, except that David didn’t turn tail and run.
    Note to Joe Lie-Berman: The Goliath reference is from the Old Testament. I suspect that you are a JINO and are unfamiliar with that book or the moral messages contained therein.

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