I have been trying to decide on a proper title for this blog.
“The Irony of Massachusetts”?
“The Perils of Parliamentary Procedure”?
“How the Cockiness of Politicians F*ed Up Another Election”?
“Health Care Reform Now!?!” ?
“What the TV Show “West Wing” Taught Me About Congressional Shenanigans”?
Fox News would tell you there is a lot at stake today with the special-election vote for US Senator to take the seat of the late Ted Kennedy. I’m guessing this because of the disparity I’ve noticed this past week in the content of CNN versus Fox News. Since the earthquake in Haiti, CNN has been spending a lot of time on the aftermath of the tragedy. They have their first-string reporting crew on the ground in Haiti. As do CBS and NBC. However, every time this past week I have turned to Fox News it has been politics politics politics. Oh, except for the one report from some correspondent I’ve never seen in grainy video in front of a gas station somewhere in Haiti. Turn on the TV to CNN – they are interviewing former Presidents Clinton and Bush (the second) about their combined efforts to spearhead an aid campaign to Haiti. Turn to Fox News and, once again, I am faced with the butt-ugly, caked-on-make-up, plastic face of Charles Krauthammer talking. And talking. And talking.
ABC, CBS, NBC- on the ground in Haiti. Fox News – Krauthammer in the studio. CNN – Anderson Cooper in Haiti. Fox News – Krauthammer in the studio. MSNBC? – well, I have no idea. I never watch MSNBC for fear of Keith Olbermann yelling at me.
Then, *ding* I suddenly remember that the Massachusetts special election is coming up. I learn that the race is pulling closer and closer with the Republican candidate Scott Brown suddenly ahead of the Democrat Martha Coakley. I realize that one party in the Senate is in danger of losing their supermajority of 60 seats. And then I understand why Fox News seems to feel they cannot waste any time on some humanitarian tragedy in a developing country when there is a possibility that Republicans in Congress may once again be free to wage a filibuster war without fear of cloture. A-ha!
Well, not to worry Fox News. Maybe there will be another devastating natural disaster next month and you can cover it with some amount of respect. Maybe it will happen in a more glamorous spot than Haiti.
So, all this bruhaha for the Republican candidate who has vowed to fight President Obama’s health care agenda. And a few other domestic issues.
And can he do it if elected?
Can the Republicans in the Senate torpedo the health care legislation that has already been passed in the House and passed in the Senate by the existing members of Congress? Ummm……possibly yes if the House has any changes to the Bill that would require the Senate to vote on it again.
Funny how quickly things can change. Vote in the Senate in December with 60 members who would not allow a filibuster to delay the process. Vote again in January with 41 members who will allow a filibuster on the floor. And Bam! all the pundits are discussing the death of health care reform in the United States.
And so…………not unusual…………my brain starts working overtime.
The Irony of Massachusetts? That would be the irony of Ted Kennedy being the champion of health care reform and having his death be the potential sticky widget in the works that kills health care reform.
The Perils of Parliamentary Procedure? That would be the fact that the practice of delaying the vote has been carried forward in certain types of governments since ancient Rome. Caesar faced it in 60 B.C., so garsh darn it, we Congress members are going to uphold the right and tradition.
How the Cockiness of Politicians F*ed Up Another Election? That would be the complete inability of certain campaign managers to learn to NEVER TAKE AN ELECTION FOR GRANTED. Hindsight commentators criticize Hilary Clinton’s primary campaign for being so sure of a win they had no strategy for a prolonged primary contest. Seems that Martha Coakley let her lackadaisical campaign get a little too self-assured for their own britches.
Health Care Reform Now?! The reason I care about this issue at all is because I do believe that some health care reform is needed in the United States. I’ve been trying to explain to people my feelings on the difference between Universal Health Care and Government-Run Health Care. I support the former, oppose the latter. I think that those of us who pay for health care ultimately pay the higher costs of a system that takes care of the uninsured. I think that those of us currently covered by a health care plan should be able to transfer from one state to another as I face the specter of searching for a new health care carrier if I move back to California without finding a full time job. I think that people who are searching for a health care provider shouldn’t be afraid to seek medical help for fear of suddenly being denied coverage because of an “existing condition.” I have seen mandates for health care coverage work in other countries that provide public and PRIVATE health care options. I do not advocate that the whole system be government-run. What a disaster that would be.
What the show “The West Wing” Taught Me About Congressional Shenanigans. I think about certain episodes where staff members kept running to Josh Lyman, the Deputy Chief of Staff, for ideas on how to delay a vote (can’t remember if it was House or Senate). Josh would pull archaic parliamentary rules from his memory that members would use to take up time on the floor. Or the episode, The Stackhouse Filibuster. When the White House staff realized why a particular Senator was waging a filibuster, they tried to help him out by enlisting the aid of other Senators via a rule that allows him to yield the floor without abandoning his delaying cause. Of course, that seems to promote the nobility of the worthy filibuster.
So, I decided on “Don’t Fear the Filibuster.”
Because right now, I’m a little pissed about the whole idea of a worthy filibuster. But I’m more pissed that the Democrats and Republicans and pundits seem to think that a filibuster would kill the entire months-long effort of passing a health care reform bill. It all comes down to votes in Massachusetts today because without a supermajority to end a filibuster, the Senate is doomed to not pass a bill? What am I missing? If you have the votes to pass a bill, you have the votes? How long, in the history of our government, did the longest filibuster last? Hours? Days? Weeks? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t weeks. In fact, it was a 24-hour and 18-minute-filibuster conducted by Strom Thurmond in 1957 arguing against the Civil Rights Act of 1957. He read Washington’s Farewell Address and talked about his mother’s biscuits. What happened to the Bill? It passed. Eventually.
So, my question is “Why Fear the Filibuster?” So the vote is delayed. Yes, it sucks. It delays the work of the Senate on other important matters. But maybe the Senators’ constituents will be upset enough to call filibuster shenanigans on their Senators. Ultimately, won’t a vote still be made? And if there are enough votes to pass the bill, it will pass. Why does the entire health care initiative have to die if Scott Brown is elected? Why are we being told the stock market is up today on expectations that health care reform is dead.
Seriously, someone help me out here. Are filibusters that effective? Can’t the other Senators hold their ground? Or do we just ask the House to ok the bill as put forth by the Senate, negating another Senate vote, and hope adequate changes are made afterward? When are the Democrats going to grow a pair?
I seriously understand how Jon Stewart feels here at about 8:22.
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