Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Richard Arenberg is wrong about the filibuster

A scholar writes in defense of filibusters: "But those seeking to end the filibuster would rue the day. We need only recall how overzealous majorities in the Wisconsin legislature attacked collective bargaining, or in Virginia sought to impose mandatory vaginal probes on women seeking abortions. We can easily imagine efforts to overturn health reform, repeal financial reforms, cripple environmental regulation, scale back Medicare, privatize Social Security, or drill for oil in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. If Mitt Romney is elected with a Republican Congress, without the historic protections in the Senate rules, where could a Democratic minority turn?"

I'm fine with rewriting the rules, as Arenberg suggests—my own suggestion would be that filibusters actually be filibusters, and to make Mitch McConnell stand in the Senate well for 50 hours at a stretch if he really wants to block President Obama's appointments to the judiciary. It might simply be easier, though, just to scrap the filibuster entirely.

Yes, that means that legislative minorities might be brushed aside in crafting legislation. But it also means that legislative minorities could scrap that legislation once they became the majority again. (There is no such thing as a permanent majority in American politics.) Wise senators would hopefully take that into consideration and craft legislation that would be politically difficult to undo at the next change in power. Right now, the filibuster isn't used to protect Social Security—it's often used for no better reason than to make the president's life a living hell. I can't get misty-eyed about that. Scrap the filibuster and let the chips fall where they may.

No comments: