Thursday, November 18, 2010
Don't "Reform" the Filibuster. Destroy It. Keith Olbermann on the cable public-affairs program Countdown November 15th discussed with Chris Hayes of The Nation magazine proposals to reduce the number of votes needed to end a filibuster. I was, as usual, disgusted that Olbermann and Hayes did not simply say that the filibuster is unconstitutional and can be ended by any Vice President. So I sent the following message via email to The Nation's website.
(PLEASE PASS this on to Christopher Hayes, for whom I see no direct email address. Thank you.)
I saw you on the November 15th edition of MSNBC's Countdown talking about reforming the filibuster, and do not understand why people do not simply say what is perfectly obvious: it is unconstitutional to convert the U.S. Senate to minority rule. The Constitution is very clear about which matters require a supermajority in the Senate, and states what the requisite supermajority is. Ordinary legislation does NOT, in the Constitution, require a supermajority. Procedural votes do not require a supermajority. What the Constitution does not permit, it forbids. The Framers plainly intended that aside from the few items expressly mentioned (for instance, ratification of treaties or override of a Presidential veto), the Congress is always to operate by simple majority: 50% + 1.
Since there is no permission for the Senate ever to operate by supermajority except for the few enumerated situations for which the Constitution provides for a supermajority, the President of the Senate — the Vice President of the United States — need do nothing more to end the filibuster as an institution than to rule that if a simple majority for procedural votes or legislative votes has been reached, the measure passes. Period.
The current President of the Senate under the Constitution is Joe Biden. And all he has to do is rule at the end of every vote that passes by a simple majority that the measure has passed. End of discussion. The Framers gave the Executive Branch the power to ride herd on the Congress when it doesn't behave. The President can adjourn a Congress that can't agree when to adjourn. The President can call Congress back from recess. The Vice President can end the filibuster. Very simple. So why isn't it done? Because the self-important Beltway elite, that "Washington" that the Tea Party uses as a pejorative, has decided that majority rule is wrong, and instead, the minority is to control. The Framers disagree. The Constitution they wrote, which is supposedly still in force, does not permit minority rule.
Cordially, L. Craig Schoonmaker, Chairman, Expansionist Party of the United States, Newark, NJ (http://www.expansionistparty.org; XPUS[on]aol.com)
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