In Washington: The F Word Everyone Says

Friday, January 22, 2010

This week in Washington has been all about the F word you can say on the air: 'Filibuster.'

With the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts on Tuesday, the Republicans gained their 41st seat in the Senate and an increased ability to slow down legislation, now that the fragile Democratic supermajority is no more. The filibuster (or the threat of a filibuster) has been an increasingly common occurrence in the the Senate over the last 30 years, and many blame it for slowing down legislation. Many, many listeners have written and phoned in to offer their suggestions as the Democrats' chances for health care reform seem less and less certain; Todd Zwillich, our Washington correspondent, joins us to respond.

Produced by:

Marine Olivesi


Todd Zwillich

Comments [1]

Bill B from Dover, NJ

Hello John,
I was listening this morning to your discussion of the pros and cons of the Senate filibuster. It reminded me immediately of an article I just read by James Fallows in the latest Atlantic Monthly, in which he pointed out the structural obsolence and anti-democratic nature of the Senate itself. The emperor has no clothes on!

Each state gets two senators, no matter what its relative population to other states. Fallows points out that 41 senators from 21 states with 12% of the US population can filibuster a bill to death. In 1789 Virginia, the largest state, was ten times more populous than NH, the smallest. Today, California is 69 times larger than Wyoming. The original compromise that created the Senate has turned into either a anti-democratic nightmare or a sheer farce.

The cost of buying the Senate is dirt cheap. Forget about buying the expensive election of a Texas senator, and spend a relative pittance buying the election of a senator from Alaska!

Have you ever heard of abductive reasoning? We all know how inductive and deductive reasoning work. Abductive reasoning is the intuitive cut to the bone reasoning that skips the logical steps and goes right to the conclusion. The American public intuitively conclude that the Congress is at best untrustworthy with serious business, or at worst critically corrupted by money interests. This abductive conclusion so undermines our sense of right and public order that we are headed for a constitutional trainwreck.

The Senate needs to be constitutionally redesigned. The principle of one person one vote must be embodied in the Senate as it now is in EVERY OTHER local, state, and federal (I.E. the House of Reps.) legislative body in the entire United States! This will not be easy--the special interests really like the Senate the way it is now! But until the Senate is redesigned, we do NOT have a representative democracy in the USA, we have either a plutocracy or an oligarchy. Our map does not match the real territory we live on, and the cognitive disconnect is eating away at us unseen from the inside.

The redesigned, truly representative Senate can keep its 60% cloture rule or get rid of it--it's not worth my time to comment on this pro or con. First, we need to develop a real Senate!

Bill Bendzick
54A Fox Hill Dr.
Dover, NJ 07801

Jan. 22 2010 07:40 AM

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