On Monday, the Republicans and "blue dog" Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted to filibuster and block legislation on the overhaul of the financial system from reaching the Senate floor for debate.
Is this a surprise? Whether it was pure obstructionism (the signature card of Republicans) or a ploy to wrangle some concessions from the Democrats, to anyone paying attention, they (the Republicans) are totally on the wrong end of history on this issue. And this was only to allow debate to begin to rein in the "banksters".
If there was ever an issue that unites the full spectrum of Americans it is regulation of the financial behemoths and the disgust with the bailouts that kept them afloat.
Any vote on this issue that appears to side with the self professed (financial) "masters of the universe" is (or should be) a ticket to their political oblivion.
Somewhat oddly, Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader switched his vote and sided with the Republicans. But the maneuver apparently allows him to call for a new vote (presumably the next day).
In the mind of this observer, Reid and the Democrats ought to call the Republicans bluff and let "McConnell and Friends" actually filibuster. Let them get up on the Senate floor and make fools of their selves as they would undoubtedly focus on demonizing the Democrats instead of aiming their fire at the financial bandits who laid waste to the country and its people. It would highlight their resistance to financial regulation as well as hold the Senate hostage from conducting any other business.
But Reid's maneuver will have to suffice, getting the Republicans (presumably) each day to vote as they did yesterday and continuing to prevent legislation from reaching the floor to begin debate. That is until some of them "crack" from the pressure, refuse to continue the filibuster charade and vote for cloture, (and end their being seen by their constituents as a resister against financial reform).
Yet it is sad to have to endure the arcane procedures of a congressional body and believe this is the way a representative democracy actually works, where a minority is able to halt progress of any measure simply (most often) by threatening a filibuster.
Perhaps this is not the time to focus on the Senate "filibuster" rule. Yet it contributes mightily to the people's general perception of governmental dysfunction and the people's legitimate mistrust of their government and their representative's incapacity to rectify the country's problems (or any problem).
Yet no problem is as crucial to rectifying as regulating the big financial institutions. It is the sine qua non issue of our time. If the end result of Congress's deliberations on financial reform is some watered down "slap on the wrist" i.e. derivatives not regulated and their transactions not made more transparent, no mechanism included to prevent future government bailouts, no consumer protection laws enacted against the predatory practices and excesses conducted by the financial "lords", then there is little hope in salvaging our political system in its present form.
For it is that system then, that is the core problem that prevents real problem solving from being accomplished.