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The Expansionist
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
 
Abolishing the Filibuster. Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico was on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann (actually, without KO, last nite; Sam Seder hosted). Udall was there to discuss the will of the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate to reform the rules of the Senate to mitigate in some measure the destructive and obstructive effects of both the filibuster and secret "holds", a 'Senatorial courtesy' by which ONE anonymous Senator can stop the work of the entire 100-member Senate by a mere THREAT of a filibuster if the Senate does not kowtow to that cowardly dictator, hiding behind anonymity.
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I wasn't impressed, with either Udall's proposals or with Udall the man. I have vague recollections of his father, Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior in the Kennedy-Johnson years, and his uncle, long-time Congressman Morris ("Mo") Udall, who ran for President in 1976. They both had more forceful personalities, by far, than little Tommy Udall, who looks much younger than his actual 62. Part of that seeming youth may be his apparent lack of weight and gravitas.
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In any case, I sent the following message to him today by feedback form at his website.
The filibuster is not just cumbersome and unworkable. It is absolutely UNCONSTITUTIONAL, and must be abolished, not reformed. The Constitution permits the Senate to operate by supermajority only in a limited number of cases that are specified by the Constitution in so many words. Remember, Senator, that what the Constitution does not permit, it forbids. Thus, apart from those few circumstances in which the Constitution expressly permits (mandates) a supermajority, the Senate is ALWAYS supposed to operate by majority rule, 50% + 1. The Constitution does not have to say that; it is just implicit in the concept of democracy. The Constitution in Art. I, Section 2, does not say that whoever gets more votes for Representative in the general election wins that office. It says only "when elected" not "when elected by simple majority". The Framers didn't load up the Constitution with excess and unnecessary verbiage. Majority rule is implicit in the democratic government they were setting up. So majority rule — simple majority, not supermajority — applies to procedural votes of all kinds as well as votes on approving actual legislation, in both Houses of Congress. Any requirement for a supermajority that is not expressly authorized by the Constitution is UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
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Furthermore, a "hold" that permits one Senator to obstruct the work of the entire Senate is not just an absurdity, it is a CRIME against democracy that must be ended. That isn't even oligarchy, but dictatorship.
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The Framers of the Constitution never empowered the Senate to operate by minority rule. Never. How could Senators at any time in our history have adopted insanely antidemocratic rules?
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If you cannot abolish the filibuster within the Senate, you need to step up to bring in the other departments of the Government to restore democracy to the Senate. That is, after all, one reason the Framers divided the Government, so that if something went wrong in one branch, another branch might correct it.
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First, insist that the Vice President, when serving as President of the Senate, rule as soon as a simple majority is reached that whatever measure (procedural or substantive) that is being voted on has passed. Period.
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Second, if the Senate refuses to abide by simple majority even with a ruling by the President of the Senate, then SUE the U.S. Senate in the Supreme Court and ask the Supreme Court for a formal declaration that minority rule in the U.S. Senate is UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
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The reforms you discussed last nite on MSNBC's Countdown are preposterously cowardly and inadequate. You should be ashamed of yourself for leaving the essence of minority rule in place. And what is this nonsense about waiting two years to make another attempt to make the Senate work? What idiocy requires such a wait? If there is a procedural rule that hamstrings the Senate for two years at a time, that rule too must be ABOLISHED, not heeded, not hedged, not shortened. ABOLISHED. Don't be such a wuss. Why are Democrats such worthless wimps? The voters don't want wimps, as they showed last month.
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How on Earth could the Senate NOT "have the authority to look at its rules"? Who but the Senate makes the Senate's rules? You're talking nonsense. The Constitution does not contain the Senate's rules. The only rules in the Constitution about voting by the Senate are a few provisions for supermajorities; apart from those, the Senate is to operate by simple majority, always.
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Your mention of looking at the rules thru the Constitution is nonsense if you accept the authority of the Senate to IGNORE the Constitution and require supermajorities that the Constitution does not permit. I have read the Constitution, Senator, and nowhere does it permit the Senate or House to write rules that create minority rule.
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Doing the people's business should not be an agony of fiting unconstitutional minority rule. SUPERMAJORITY RULES INFLICT SUPERMINORITY RULE. End it. Crush all tendencies, in both houses of Congress, to void the will of the majority entrenched in the Constitution.
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Finally, Senator, the Democrats desperately need a new Majority Leader, a real man, not that whimpering little wisp of a man from Nevada. You need an LBJ. Harry Reid is no LBJ.
(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,430 — for Israel.)



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