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Web Letter

I'm convinced. I'm a political junkie, but I was not aware that the Senate filibuster could be eliminated by a simple majority vote. If that's true, let's push for it, by all means. Literally. I can't think of a more worthwhile procedural reform, other than maybe finding some way of banning gerrymandering, which has killed all possibility of bipartisan cooperation.

I'm not clear on one point, though. Wouldn't the current "reformed Rule 22" enable any Senator to invoke filibuster and require a sixty-vote supermajority on the resolution to kill the requirement for a sixty-vote supermajority, which would make Rule 22 essentially the same as Heller's Catch-22? Clarification, please. Would someone kindly explain how that problem could be avoided?

On the merits, though, and with due recognition of the possible downsides, it seems almost self-evident that progressives should favor elimination of the filibuster. By definition, progressives are people who believe that we should draw upon accumulating human knowledge and experience to make things continually better, to make our Union "more perfect." That's as opposed to the conservatives' inclination to fear and resist change. The filibuster rule, as a tool to prevent change, is inherently advantageous to the interests of conservatives rather than to those of reformist progressives.

So, if it's mathematically possible to eliminate the filibuster with a fifty-one-vote majority of the Senate, it's something we should definitely do. For starters, let's get MoveOn involved in putting together a campaign to inundate all Democratic Senators with mail demanding their support.

Kenneth Burgdorf, Ph.D.

Derwood, MD

Aug 26 2009 - 1:18pm

Web Letter

One of the strongest arguments why eliminating the filibuster would do far more good than bad, and why fifty-one Democratic Senators (that's all that's needed, plus the vice president) should eliminate the filibuster through rulings from the chair, and then strike down all Republican tactics to shut down the Senate (all do-able ), is this:

The good the Democrats would do with the filibuster eliminated--things like perhaps Medicare for all, four free years of college (we've been stuck at free education only up to high school for over 100 years, while the amount of education necessary to be a highly productive nation has skyrocketed in that time), and much more--once enacted, and people saw the truth of how good they were, as opposed to the Republican lies, would be permanent. The Republicans would never dare get rid of them, and if they did, it would be very temporary. Next election, the Republicans would be decimated, and the programs would be easily restored. A good example is Medicare (universal single-payer health insurance for our seniors). The Republicans, lead by Ronald Reagan, fought it tooth and nail in 1965, claiming it would lead to socialism, or worse. Today they would not dare even mention repealing it, because once it was actually passed, people saw how much better it really made their lives, and loved it.

By contrast, the things the Republicans would push through with fifty-one votes would usually be bad, or horrible, to the vast majority, and so once people actually experienced them, and saw firsthand how the lies about them were really false, like how they only helped the rich, they would not last. The public would vote for change, and they would be repealed. And the Republicans would be revealed. People would see firsthand that lies like "trickle down" were false, a devastating fairy tale, eventually--for some things they would see very quickly, others over more time.

So, this is an extremely strong reason why Democrats should support repeal of the filibuster. What they would do would be permanent, like Medicare, unemployment insurance, free public schooling. But what the Republicans would do would only be temporary.

People would relatively quickly see the great harm to everyone except, perhaps, the rich (and even for them, the extra few thousand square feet of mansion would help them and their families far less than they would be hurt by the decreased public health, safety, medical and scientific investment, and thus advancement, having to walk over homeless people, or live behind walls, etc., etc.).

Richard H. Serlin

Tucson, AZ

Aug 25 2009 - 8:38am

Web Letter

Thank you for this informative summary. While I sympathize broadly with the author, I find that his critique doesn't go far enough. He seems to be saying that if we tweek the system it will really start to work. The two-party oligarchy produced by majoritarian electoral mechanics, particularly the domination of single-member district plurality rules, will probably survive a repeal of the filibuster rule in the Senate. It's ironic that a system of representative government that grants minorities little formal opportunity to share governing responsibilities should be hamstrung by a rule that throws a crumb to the frustrated minorities. The solution is a parliamentary system in which multiple parties build coalitions that can provide minorities with formal governing responsibility.

Paul Abbott

Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Aug 23 2009 - 2:43am

Web Letter

The first party to do this would never lose another election. Once people see single-payer, EFCA and progressive tax sans loopholes in action, the GOP will be a footnote in future textbooks.

Martin Szeliga

Bay City, MI

Aug 22 2009 - 6:04pm

Web Letter

I have long been concerned with the Senate's rule about the filibuster. The Constitution implies majority rule and when it deviates from that it specifies the required fraction, i.e., 2/3, 3/5, 3/4. It also specifically gives the veto to the president. I believe the Senate has exceeded its authority to make its own rules by allowing a minority to stop legislation or presidential appointments. You are right to say the Senate can change its rule at any time by majority vote. I, in fact, stopped contributing to Democrats over this issue more than a year ago. I am willing to live with a simple majority, whether it is Democratic, Republican, or someday, other.

Dr. Alan Edmonson

Albuquerque, NM

Aug 19 2009 - 2:53pm

Web Letter

I found Mr. Geohegan's piece on "busting the filibuster" most interesting. I am one of those Southerners whom he so despises. I dislike labor unions and go into rhapsodies of joy at the mere mention of private property. That being said, I hope he and his fellow left-wingers at The Nation get their wish and enact the entire Obama agenda. Unlike many of my neighbor's here in the South, I am an unreconstructed Southerner who has never pledged allegiance to what my parents and grandparents referred to as the "Yankee Rag." In the area in which I live there used to be a Yankee flag on every other house. Now I notice fewer and fewer with each passing day. My people, white Southerners, are finally getting it through their thick heads that the federal government is their enemy and that we are locked into country where we will always be seen as second-class citizens to be taxed, cheated and ordered around. I suppose the question I would like to ask Mr. Geohegan is why he and others of his background want the South to remain part of the United States. Wouldn't you people be happier if we became a separate country? Just think, if the South was not part of your Congress you would be able to create the Worker's Paradise of your dreams. Every progressive wish would be granted and you could provide a haven for all of the black people leaving our benighted ignorant South. Losing these fine upstanding citizens would be tragic but c'est la vie. In closing let me suggest that you take your Yankee flag, labor unions and Ellis Island and use your imagination as to what I would like you to do with them.

worsham abbott

Richmond, VA

Aug 19 2009 - 2:19pm

Web Letter

The question is, Will Republicans ever get a majority in Congress again? Regardless of who gets a majority in Congress, the Senate is not designed to support the Democratic process but to obstruct it. However, since the Democrats have become the defender of "private enterprise," it won't be too long before they can't get a majority in Congress.

I think we should push for a Constitutional amendment to get rid of the Senate and give its duties to the House. These people are useless!

Pervis James Casey

Riverside, CAA

Aug 19 2009 - 1:39pm

Web Letter

This is obviously an issue that has been bothering you for some time. Is this a reprint of an article you first wrote when Republicans had a majority in the Senate?

Mark Milten

Hicksville, NY

Aug 18 2009 - 9:33am

Web Letter

There is almost nothing here to disagree with!

However, the old rule is "be caeful what you wish for, you might get it."

Easier passage works both ways! When the voters decide to elect a hard Republican Congress, you might wish this were still in place to slow their forces down.

Think about it.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Aug 15 2009 - 8:17am

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