Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is The Filibuster Good for Individual Senators?


Yglesias: "[the 60-vote Senate requirement] allows each individual senator to drive a harder bargain in the horse-trading and log-rolling sweepstakes in a manner that rarely serves the public interest". Does it? Clearly it allows Olympia Snowe and Evan Bayh and Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to drive a harder bargain. But what about the rest of the Democratic caucus? Would anyone find it credible if Jack Reed said he would join Republicans in filibustering the HCR bill? Would he really end up wringing concessions for quahog harvesters? I find myself doubful of his prospects. It seems to me that the filibuster is only individually good for those Senators who for ideological or political reasons are already likely to oppose progressive legislation. That's a good reason for those Senators to oppose an end to the filibuster, but it's not a good reason for your run-of-the-mill member of the body. This goes for Republicans to; the filibuster is mainly a tool for preserving the status quo, meaning that Jim Demint's free-market utopia would stand a better chance (but still not a good one) of enactment if it needed only fifty votes.

The Senate is basically debating a bill written by Max Baucus and edited by Harry Reid, and to some extent by other members of the Finance Committee. That leaves 46 Senate Democrats who've close to zero input on the current bill. If I were one of those 46 I'm not sure I'd feel great about that arrangement.
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