What History Teaches Us About the Supermajority

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The election of Republican Scott Brown as Massachusetts' new junior senator on Tuesday night sent shock waves through Washington. Politicians of on both sides of the aisle flocked to microphones to give their takes on the future of health care reform now that the Democrats no longer have the Senate 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. But how did we come to expect a 59-vote majority as a bad thing? We look at the history of the supermajority.

 

We speak to Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and Princeton congressional historian Julian Zelizer, author of "Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security - From World War II to the War on Terrorism."

Guests:

Julian Zelizer

Produced by:

Marine Olivesi

Contributors:

Congressman Anthony Weiner

Comments [18]

Richard A from NYC

Haven't any of you been listening to the people? The majority of Americans are against this heath care bill with its backroom and under the table deals. Anyone who thinks the bills now in the Senate and the House are budget neutral has overdosed on Kool-aid.

The 60 vote rule will maintain the will of the majority and keep a bad bill from being forced down the throat of an electorate who strongly oppose this bill.

Jan. 23 2010 05:04 PM
Richard A from NYC

Haven't any of you been listening to the people? The majority of Americans are against this heath care bill with its backroom and under the table deals. Anyone who thinks the bills now in the Senate and the House are budget neutral has overdosed on Kool-aid.

Jan. 23 2010 04:57 PM
charlie kruger from harrington park nj

Thanks John, I feel like I know you too.

Jan. 22 2010 11:33 AM
rucb_alum from Central NJ

As currently constructed the filibuster rule gives the minority too much power over the process. Prior to the rules change, there was a cost to filibustering...You had to have the perserverance and personal fortitude at risk. You would at least lose some fund-raising time during the weekends. The situation now has lowered/removed that cost.
Therefore, the minority party can obstruct any piece of legislation they want and pay little or no price. But could this Senate get 67 votes to change it back to the way it was? I doubt it.

Jan. 22 2010 09:39 AM
Carmen Balber from Washington DC

Bust the filibuster! Real health care reform or financial re-regulation should not depend upon the likes of Joe Lieberman, Kent Conrad or Ben Nelson.

Jan. 21 2010 04:13 PM
George Casaday from Massachusetts

Ed Helmrich:
"No, the 60 vote rule is a great bar against unwise legislation. "
It has become a bar against ANY legislation.

"Anyway, it takes a vote of 67 senators to change a Senate rule."
There is a convoluted route around the 67 vote rule change requirement. It has been called the "nuclear option."

Jan. 21 2010 02:41 PM
John Branch from Brooklyn, NY

The problem isn't the filibuster rule but the polarization of voting in Congress. Members of both parties voted for Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, presumably without any of them feeling they were betraying their party. Now, despite differing in other ways, Democrats and Republicans have one principle in common: to block whatever the other party wants.

Jan. 21 2010 01:29 PM
Ed Helmrich from Larchmont, NY

No, the 60 vote rule is a great bar against unwise legislation. Anyway, it takes a vote of 67 senators to change a Senate rule.

Jan. 21 2010 11:18 AM
George Casaday from Massachusetts

Jim Cooke: "The Democrats hold the presidency and control both houses of congress..."
The Democrats do not actually control the Senate, thanks to the Filibuster.

Jan. 21 2010 09:55 AM
Jim Cooke from Ontario, Canada

Let me get this straight. The Democrats hold the presidency and control both houses of congress and the election of a former nude model from a small state giving the Republicans 41% of the votes in the Senate now threatens a much watered down version of health care for the only industrialized country in the world without public health care. I'm from Canada and we have a national government that gets way more done with fewer elected seats than the opposition. I admire the U.S. but this is crazy. You'd think the Republicans won the election. Good luck.

Jan. 21 2010 09:38 AM
Reconciliation: Reagan, Clinton Bush & Bush Jr. Us from Sandy Springs Ga.

Fox News's Shepard Smith: Bush Used Reconciliation in 2001-2003-2005, Democrats can use it as well, Smith says..

"If the Democrats Want to, They can do that" I Agree 1000%

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQzJNnCwX9E&feature=player_embedded#t=93
________

What History teaches Me about having a Majority, use it like Bush used his 2001-2006 Majority. Use Reconciliation, like Bush did in 2001-2003-2005. Here's the Reality, even with Scott brown, Reconciliation can be used, the Democrats have 59 Votes, in using Reconciliation, Vice President Joe Biden would become the [60Th Vote] to pass the Senate's Version of HCR. Oh and by the way, Former President Reagan & Clinton used Reconciliation.

Jan. 21 2010 08:43 AM
Nicky McCatty from Brookline, MA

I agree that it's time to eliminate the filibuster. Perhpas it could be retained for amendments to the Constitution, but otherwise, time to go. We are currently in a situation where the discredited minority is creating a tyranny over the majority.

Jan. 21 2010 08:39 AM
Dominick DePinto from NYC

It used to be extremely hard to maintain a filibuster and as a result its use was limited to major debates like the Civil Rights Bill. Under the present Senate rules the need for 60 votes has become the standard and deadlock has resulted. The Constitution doesn't require a super majority except for a number of defined sutuations. I would hope that this issue can be brought before the Supreme Court for a ruling. I would be very interested to see how those strict constitutionalist on the court vote when Republicans are in the minority in the Senate.

Jan. 21 2010 08:37 AM
George Casaday from Massachusetts

Phil:
The filibuster is not one of the "basic rules." It is a recent innovation.
I do not advocate "continuing to change." I do advocate ending the filibuster once and for all.
The worst that could happen, for me, is that when views that I disagree with have a majority, I would have to go along with that majority. What a nigntmare!

Jan. 21 2010 08:29 AM
Phil from Atlanta

No. It should remain at 60. The basic rules that run this country were put in place for a reason. continuing to change them to meet someone's political leanings leads to anarchy. Are we experiencing the fall of American society?

Jan. 21 2010 08:14 AM
George Casaday from Massachusetts

Why should progress require 60 votes in the US Senate?
Why should a minority of citizens in conservative, low popupation density states be permitted to thwart democracy in America through the arcane procedure of the US Senate filibuster?

I see this as the only issue worth any further discussion at this time.

I will never again vote for, speak out for, or contribute to any Senate candidate who does not pledge to end the self destructive practice of the Senate filibuster.

Jan. 21 2010 08:05 AM
Reconciliation: Reagan, Clinton Bush & Bush Jr. Us from Sandy Springs Ga.

What History teaches Me about having a Majority, use it like Bush used his 2001-2006 Majority. Use Reconciliation, like Bush did in 2001-2003-2005. Here's the Reality, even with Scott brown, Reconciliation can be used, the Democrats have 59 Votes, in using Reconciliation, Vice President Joe Biden would become the [60Th Vote] to pass the Senate's Version of HCR. Oh and by the way, Former President Reagan & Clinton used Reconciliation.

Jan. 21 2010 07:16 AM
Reconciliation: Reagan, Clinton Bush & Bush Jr. Us

What History teaches Me about having a Majority, use it like Bush used his 2001-2006 Majority. Use Reconciliation, like Bush did in 2001-2003-2005. Here's the Reality, even with Scott brown, Reconciliation can be used, the Democrats have 59 Votes, in using Reconciliation, Vice President Joe Biden would become the [60Th Vote] to pass the Senate's Version of HCR. Oh and by the way, Former President Reagan & Clinton used Reconciliation.

Jan. 21 2010 07:10 AM

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