Discussing what's right till there's nothing left.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why the 41st Vote is Critical For America

The linked article, and a slew just like it reflect an out of control political environment where the only way legislation gets passed is along a strict party line vote. In fact, the Republicans aren't even part of the discussion on key issues like health care reform or cap and trade legislation.

These reports make it sound like that's normal when in fact it's completely out of the ordinary. When Al Franken won the 60th senate seat after a long disputed election in Minnesota, the Democrats decided they would take advantage and pass partisan bills only.

It hasn't always been that way, in fact it seldom is. Bill Clinton's presidency is remembered for budget surpluses but Clinton era budgets required passage through a House of Representative where Republicans led by Newt Gingrich were in control. That means they had all the committee chairs which determine what bills even come up for a vote. He learned to deal with it and the country I would say was better off.

During the Bush years, some years the Republicans controlled both houses but never with a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. The Democrats were able to use that little bit of leverage particularly to block judicial nominees like Miguel Estrada.

The Constitution was crafted to ensure a slow deliberative lawmaking process. Most of the time there has been a two-party system as well as the three distinct branches of government to ensure checks and balances against abuses of power. I contend that the country will be better off if there is at least the possibility of a filibuster on controversial bills. Instead of one set of interests always benefitting from legislation and feeding a corrupt system, a blended, national interest will be fused. And it will be better for the president as well as the likelihood of sustained change improives if the party out of power at least has some hand in passing legislation.

A win by Scott Brown doesn't mean the end of the Obama legacy or the end of positive change. It may mean the opposite.

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