Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Smash the Filibuster. Dire pronouncements about the huge consequences of the victory of one Republican in the election for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts makes plain that the United States has completely lost its democracy. The Senate has an UNCONSTITUTIONAL rule requiring a supermajority for ordinary legislation. Why is there no indignation that the Senate has ended our democracy, so that a 59% majority is not enuf to pass simple legislation in the United States Senate?
What recourse do we have, when one house of the national legislature undoes the work of the Founding Fathers and overrules the Framers of the Constitution to impose a supermajority requirement upon all actions of the Senate, when the Constitution permits no such thing?
Who has standing to sue to require the Senate to operate by simple majority, as was plainly intended by the Framers? The form of the Constitution is plain: unless a supermajority is expressly provided for, all parts of the Government the Framers created must operate by simple majority. The Constitution doesn't have to say, in so many words, that simple majority rules. That is plainly implied by the word "democracy", which everyone understood to be the intent of the American Revolution. The absence of an express statement that votes within each house of Congress shall be determined by majority in no way authorizes either house to require a supermajority. Think about it. If the Senate is able to require a 60% vote, why not a 90% vote, or 100% — so that essentially nothing at all can ever again be done by the United States Government?
There is no provision in the Constitution that any vote in either House of Congress require a 60% supermajority for anything. Not one thing. The word "sixty", the number "60", do not occur in the Constitution.
By contrast, the Constitution does expressly refer to 2/3 and 3/4 of Congress.
- Two-thirds of both houses is required to override a Presidential veto.
- Two-thirds of the Senate is needed to impeach a public official.
- Two-thirds of either house of Congress is required to expel a member.
- The Senate must approve a treaty by a two-thirds vote.
- Two-thirds of the states must be present at the vote of the House of
Representatives to elect a President if no President gets a (simple) majority
of the electoral vote, but the actual vote for President is by simple majority.
- Similarly, two-thirds of the States must be present in the Senate to choose
a Vice President if no one gets a majority of the Electoral College, but
again a simple majority of the states chooses the Vice President.
- Two-thirds of both houses are required to keep a President who has been set
aside for temporary disability but says he is no longer disabled, from
retaking his office.
- Two-thirds of both houses are needed to place a Constitutional amendment
before the states, and three-fourths of the states are required to pass a
If the Senate chooses to ignore the Constitution and operate outside it and in plain defiance of the Constitution's democratic intent, someone must act to restore Congressional democracy. The President can do that.
The President can proclaim that the Senate is in violation of the Constitution, and no supermajority not mandated by the Constitution will be recognized; so any measure, including cloture (to end debate), will be considered to have passed if approved by a simple majority. The Vice President is the President of the Senate. He can rule that a simple majority vote for cloture is valid, and the 2/3 majority cloture rule is legally void, for being unconstitutional.
The President doesn't have to sue the Senate; the Supreme Court has no authority to empower the Senate to defy the Constitution. All that needs to happen is for the President to declare that the filibuster is unconstitutional, and for the Vice President to rule that a simple majority vote to end a filibuster is sufficient, and the people's business will go forward as the Framers of the Constitution intended: democratically, by simple majority vote for EVERYTHING.
The only thing that stands between the current, maddeningly antidemocratic Senatorial obstructionism we now suffer, on the one side, and the restoration of democracy on the other, is the weak will of a President who will not stand up for us. But even Barack Obama might conceivably show some backbone (Barackbone?) if hundreds of thousands of Americans in cities all around the Nation demonstrate in the streets demanding an end to the UNCONSTITUTIONAL FILIBUSTER.
(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,373 — for Israel.)
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