Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Normalization of the Sixty-Vote Senate

WSJ: "Senate Vote on Debt Commission Is Likely to Come Up Short". In which the author notes: "But Gregg suggested the outcome could come up short of the 60 votes needed to pass." [emphasis mine]

The fact that DC reporters have internalized the sixty-vote Senate is a sign that things have gotten truly bad. The Debt Commission is a bad idea, but it's not a terribly controversial idea, since the odds are it will be completely ineffective. As has been noted, the structure of the debt commission makes it extremely unlikely that it will come up with a set of recommendations that both (a) actually do anything about the fiscal situation, and (b) stand any chance of passing. Despite this, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is opposed to the commission, on the grounds that it has a teensy tiny chance to raise taxes. But there's no indication from Politico that McConnell's going to join with a collection of liberal Democrats to filibuster the rather pointless commission. They could simply let it through with the knowledge that it's highly unlikely to do anything.

At the very least, when reporters say that a bill needs 60 votes to pass the Senate, they ought to say who it is who is threatening to mount filibuster. And then they ought to note that the U.S. Senate is the only legislative body in the industrialized world where routine legislation is subject to a supermajority requirement. But while treaties need 67 votes to pass, nothing needs 60 votes to pass; that requirement is a choice made by current members of the Senate.
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