Letters to the Editor

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SENATE: Reform rules as a small first step

Letter by David L. Andersen, Tacoma on Nov. 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm with 8 Comments »
November 22, 2010 2:31 pm

Re: “Young Democrats challenge Senate traditions” (TNT, 11-15).

It’s about time somebody finally saw the decrepit Senate procedures for the problem they really are. Congress is one of our democracy’s adaptive mechanisms. It’s how a democracy changes to respond to new challenges and opportunities. When it breaks down, democracy cannot adapt. Darwin tells us what happens to those who cannot adapt quickly in a changing world.

The real problem is not that our country is going broke and that our economy is mismanaged. Those are just symptoms of the underlying problem. The world is changing fast, and American democracy cannot keep up. The true enemy is not Republicans or Democrats, it’s gridlock.

This is why everyone loved the base-closure process. it bypassed all the byzantine legislative procedures and allowed Congress to make tough decisions.

Reforming Senate rules is not the big step we need, but it’s a small step. Real change will come when voters and the media stop rewarding blowhards and partisans and stop punishing quiet, thoughtful moderates. Among the big losers in the last election were moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats. Until then, it is a step in the right direction and one we voters should support.

Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. aislander says:

    I’m not completely certain that this writer is advocating the abandonment of representative republican (“democratic”) government, but it sounds like it. He seems to indicate that our government cannot “adapt” quickly enough and another system that reacts more quickly would be preferable. Perhaps we can change the definition of democracy so that a leader who can “channel” the will of the people would replace that cumbersome electoral process and legislative procedure…

  2. seems pretty clear to me, but the letter is concerned with reforming the Senate’s operational rules.

  3. Darwinian fantasy aside, could David mention which specific rule changes , how to effect them and who, by name, has been against the changes?

  4. In 1947 there were zero cloture motions filed, in 2010 there were 140.

    The Senate was never intended to operate this way. The filibuster is not in the Constitution. Indeed, our founders ex­plicitly rejected a supermajority vote requirement. Historically, the filibuster was an extraordinary tool used only in the rarest of instances. In 1939, the year Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was filmed—depicting Jimmy Stewart’s character single-handedly using a filibuster to stop a corrupt piece of legislation—there were zero filibusters in the Senate. In the 1950s, there was an average of just one filibuster per Congress. In a 20-year period, from 1950 to 1969, there were only 20 filibusters (a number Republicans tripled in just one year with 69 filibusters in 2009).

  5. eagle_beak says:

    change….. we can believe in

    God bless America and help us keep our country free!

  6. aislander says:

    Cloture may be invoked to set a time limit on debate for reasons other than to end a filibuster–a looming congressional recess being one such. Your choice of years (1947 and 2010) seems arbitrary, since the number of votes needed for cloture was reduced from 3/4 to 3/5 of the Senate in 1975, making the procedure easier and therefore encouraging its use. So, really, the number of cloture votes is not pertinent to the point you seem to be attempting to make. I’d be interested (but not enough to look it up) in how many cloture votes were needed from 1995 through 2000, and from 2003 through 2006. And of course, the majority leader is not going to bring something to a vote if he doesn’t HAVE the votes, unless he is grandstanding or a moron…

  7. aislander – visit the cited links. Look at the graphs. See how there has been a steady growth since 1947.

    Seriously….the “originalist” is arguing for Senate rules that aren’t in the Constitution.

    There’s a word for that…….oh yeah…….hypocrite.

  8. aislander says:

    I’m not arguing for anything, just acknowledging reality. You seem to believe the number of cloture votes is indicative of some sinister trend, a tendency of Republicans to filibuster more than has been the norm. I just don’t believe that to be the case…

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