Sunday, February 14, 2010
Crushing the Senate's Antidemocratic Procedures. How did the United States Senate develop its own rules in defiance of the Constitution? Not only does the Senate require a 60% supermajority to do any normal business, but it also permits ONE Senator to prevent the Senate from acting to confirm Presidential appointments. This is the notorious, insane "hold" practice — not even a formal, written rule — utilized this past week by Alabama Senator Richard Shelby.
A hold is a device [emphasis added] by which Senators can block or delay action on a treaty, nomination or legislation, merely by telling their party leader that they want to delay floor action on the matter in question. Whether to grant that request is a decision of the leaders.How can we permit such madness? This is the ultimate antidemocratic coup against the people: the wishes of 308 million Americans mean nothing. The arrogance and desires of ONE Senator are enuf to stop the nomination of anyone, to any post, by the President. This must end — in bloodshed, if need be.
Nowhere in the written Senate rules is the tradition of “holds” to be found, and
it is not clear when the practice began. The very nature of the holds process gives the
majority and minority leaders a great deal of discretion in deciding whether to honor
a request for a hold and, if so, for how long. However, implicit in a request for a
hold is the ability of a Senator to use parliamentary tools to filibuster or to delay
consideration of the nomination or legislation at issue. Also implicit in a request for
a hold is the desire of the Senator to be consulted by party leadership on the matter
subject to the hold. Holds can sometimes kill a nomination, but more frequently they
Whether a Senator has placed a hold on a nomination or legislation is not
publicly available information, and the information is closely held by the two party
leaders. Only when a Senator announces that he or she has placed a hold on a
measure or a matter does the information become public.
Do we have to storm the Senate, with lengths of sturdy rope to string up enemies of democracy like Senator Shelby? Do we have to take out our guns and mow down the entire obstructionist Republican leadership? We can do that. Ours is a revolutionary tradition, and we have changed history with guns, starting with muskets in the 1770s and proceeding thru assassinations of key people at key junctures of our history. The enemies of democracy in the Senate apparently believe all that 'unpleasantness' is behind us, and that today's Americans are all pussies who wouldn't dare to kill their enemies. This seems to me an odd stance for Senators from a country that is reported to have 200 million guns out among the people, is involved in TWO wars at this very moment, and has hundreds of thousands of people addicted to hyperviolent video games in which killing is not just normal and normative, but the way you get points to win the game!
How on Earth did anyone come up with the idea that it is OK for one Senator to hold up Senate action on ANYTHING?
When I discussed the unconstitutional nature of the filibuster rule here on January 19th, I carried the filibuster rule to its logical extreme, requiring unanimity — 100% of the Senate — to do anything. That may have struck some readers as "silly". But here we have a practice that actually DOES require unanimity, because ONE Senator can keep the Senate from holding confirmation hearings on Presidential appointments. So my taking the antidemocratic filibuster rule to its logical extreme was, alas, not the slitest "silly".
Nor is the malicious frustration of the people's will by self-important members of the Senate merely "silly". It is criminal behavior that should produce expulsion from the Senate, at the least. But stringing up such an enemy of society by a stout rope thrown over a strong limb of an old tree and watching him dance his way to Hell would be very satisfying, and instructive to every Senator not (yet) executed by the people.
How can we consider ourselves a democracy when the tiniest of minorities, ONE PERSON in a Nation of 308 MILLION, can keep the Nation's work from being done? What's the point of elections, if the people sent to the Senate are not required to obey the most basic principle of elections: the majority rules?
Plainly the Framers of the Constitution never intended anything like what the Senate has become, a stridently, militantly antidemocratic monstrosity. The Senate must be forced to abolish ALL its antidemocratic practices, and operate by simple majority in all things. If it refuses, the President should contrive to send Congress home, and rule by decree until he decides to permit Congress to convene again. If just one person is to run the Nation, it might at least be the one elected by a majority of the Nation, not by a few hundred thousand people from one state. If Congress refuses to do anything, why should it be in session? Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution says:
[The President] may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper[.]I'd say that an inability to get anything thru the Senate qualifies as an "extraordinary Occasion". Maybe if Congress were sent home for six months, and the President did as ever he pleased, according to existing laws as he interprets them during that time, Congress might find a way to conduct the people's business efficiently and in bipartisan fashion when the President does eventually permit it to reconvene.
(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,376 — for Israel.)
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