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Dysfunction Run Amok in the Senate

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It should be no surprise that when polled the American people on all ends of the political spectrum give low marks (barely registering in the teens) to the work of the Congress.

Though the Senate, with its archaic and stratifying filibuster rule must be seen as beyond the pale when it comes to being dysfunctional.

The filibuster rule is not in the Constitution. It was all but theoretical until first used in 1837. It was used sparingly in the 19th century and into the 20th century when in 1917 (over a filibuster against arming merchant vessels to fend off German submarine warfare) the term "cloture" (ending debate) came into vogue. It required 2/3rds of the Senate voting to end a filibuster. It was reduced to 60 votes in 1975 by a just a majority vote.

According to Senate rules at the beginning of each new Congress all Senate rules can be amended, including of course the filibuster rules. A simple majority vote could modify the filibuster rule say to 55 votes or 51 votes or even eliminate it altogether.

At present the filibuster is the main roadblock in the Senate. Its use or simply the threat of it has become the tyranny of the minority.

In years past Senators were actually seen filibustering, holding the Senate floor and talking endlessly against any proposal they opposed (with apologies to Senator Bernie Saunders, Ind. VT. for his courageous stand   against Obama's capitulation to the Republicans extending the Bush era tax cuts for the rich).

Today all it takes is for the minority to just threaten to filibuster and all proposals stop in their tracks.

The mere threat of a filibuster casts a pall over all legislative proposals even prior to any debate.

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It affected the health care debate in the Senate that precluded the inclusion of Medicare type, single payer public option advocates from even sitting on a panel in Senate Finance Committee hearings to discuss health care reform.

Financial reform legislation that was finally enacted was so watered down (from filibuster threats) that derivatives (those collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps involving trillions of dollars in unregulated transactions which were at the heart of the sub-prime mortgage bubble bursting in the fall of 2008) remain unregulated in the new financial reform legislation that became law.

The latest roadblock in the Senate concerns the "Start" treaty with Russia that would reduce the current nuclear arsenals of Russia and the U.S. from 12,000 (Russia) and 9242 (U.S.) from the current 2600 (Russia) and 1968 (U.S.) respectively.

Such a treaty would require 67 votes by the Senate (as do all treaties). The current "debate" in the Senate has the minority quibbling about things such as "reducing our security" or "preventing the president from declaring a political victory" (this drivel from Senator Mitch McConnell, R. KY., and the Minority Leader in the Senate).

Reducing these arsenals now is critical to begin the process for the eventual elimination of these doomsday weapons. Even with the reductions contained in the yet to be ratified new "Start" treaty, both countries could still destroy all life on the planet if their arsenals were unleashed in a nuclear holocaust.

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So instead of sound reasoning and serious reflection on the part of our Senate "leaders" we're treated to the rambling of nonsense spouted by fools and idiots that roam the halls of the Senate.    


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