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Friday Talking Points [113] -- Republican Reconciliation Hypocrisy

[ Posted Friday, February 26th, 2010 – 17:47 PST ]

As the dust settles on the aftermath of the health reform summit held yesterday by President Barack Obama and attended by leaders of both parties in Congress, not much has changed. Not that anyone really expected anything to change, much, to be honest.

The media has mostly chalked the whole debate up as a tie. Normally, they'll stick their necks out and say one side "won" or "lost," but my sneaking suspicion is that a lot of the talking heads just don't have the attention span to sit through seven hours of politicians talking. So maybe calling it a "tie" was the easy way out for them.

Now, many have parsed this meeting as political theater or "Obama playing chess while Republicans play checkers" or other political constructs. But personally, I think people are missing something here. Because I think that Barack Obama really does believe in bipartisanship. He keeps offering a hand across the aisle, and it keeps getting smacked down, but I think that the effort to get everyone on board is a core part of Obama's personality, and not some sort of political trick or theater or campaign slogan. I also think this may be Obama's biggest weakness, politically (even though he likely sees it as a political strength). But the more I watch him, the more I become convinced that this is a big philosophical deal to Obama, and that he should be seen as both honest and true to himself for trying. Even if it does come off as naive or politically meaningless, in terms of actual results.

In any case, while the political theater aspect of the meeting was indeed shiny and distracting for the inside-the-Beltway set, we now must look to what comes next. And what comes next (if the bill has any hope of passing) is budget reconciliation. But we'll get to that fight in a bit, here. Because there is some late-breaking news from the Senate which Democrats could use as a gigantic political bludgeon against Republicans all weekend long in interviews.

I speak, of course, of Senator Jim Bunning, Republican from Kentucky, who just successfully blocked extending unemployment benefits to over a million people. These benefits will expire Sunday unless Congress acts. Bunning refused to let the Senate act. Singlehandedly, Bunning stopped a bill in its tracks which would have kept the unemployment checks flowing.

This, if Democrats use it properly, could be as big as Newt Gingrich shutting down the government. Especially since Bunning's move stopped a lot of other things in the bill as well, including COBRA benefits and even local television channels being available in rural areas next Monday (now there's something to get some red state voters' attention -- rural television service disappearing because of Republicans in Congress refusing to act!). Bunning's stated opposition to the bill was that he wanted to pay for it by taking money out of the stimulus money passed last year, in a fit of fiscal responsibility, instead of "passing costs on to future generations." Worth noting is that Bunning is retiring this year, and therefore does not have to worry about what the voters have to say about his actions.

Once again, here is an enormous present, handed to Democrats on a silver platter. Let's hope that Democrats don't (once again) ignore the present itself, and wind up on the floor playing with the shiny wrapping paper and the empty box.

Democrats should be loudly denouncing Bunning's move to the high heavens, every chance they get over the next few days. Bring it up no matter what the subject -- you can always tie it in to "Congressional gridlock" or "Republican obstructionism" or "this is why nothing gets done in Washington."

Seriously, this one is so easy to paint as Democrats being on the side of the angels, fighting off Republican demons. The talking points just write themselves, guys and gals. Compare Bunning to the Clinton/Gingrich showdown -- every chance you get. Wax indignant over the plight of the unemployed whose checks will now stop because one Republican senator didn't get his way. Ask Republicans if this is what they mean by "deficit reduction" and "fiscal responsibility" -- holding over a million families' immediate financial future hostage in a senatorial snit. Decry "parliamentary tricks" that let one single senator anonymously hold up any legislation they feel like. Repeat after me: Republican obstructionism. Party of No. Republicans don't care about the unemployed. Republicans don't care about families. Republicans are more interested in playing politics than doing what is right. People's lives are at stake, but Republicans don't care.

There's a very basic lesson here, one that Democrats just never seem to learn. The lesson is: Republicans have no shame about using every advantage the rules allow. They also have no fear of any political consequences whatsoever, because Democrats never call them on it in any meaningful way. Republicans don't even think twice about doing this stuff, because Democrats seem fundamentally incapable of playing hardball -- even when Republicans taunt Democrats and dare them to do so.

If handled correctly, this could be a watershed moment for Democrats, on who really cares about the American public and who does not. Once again, Newt Gingrich went so far as to shut the entire federal government down, because he thought he would emerge from the fray with a political victory. He did not, and Clinton did. But the only reason that happened is because of public opinion. And public opinion is a pump that needs priming. The next few days will show whether Democrats are even capable of doing so, because the Republicans have just served up a golden opportunity on a silver platter. Opportunity is not just knocking on this one, it has in fact broken down the Democrats' front door with a sledgehammer, and is now bashing them about the ears in a whirling frenzy of opportunitastical splendor.

To put it an even more colorful way, the Republicans are collectively bent over in front of the Democrats, waving their collective hindquarters in the Democrats' faces, with a giant "KICK ME!" sign painted on the metaphorical GOP buttocks, all the while screaming: "I dare you! Do it!" at the tops of their lungs. All that is required is for Democrats to summon the energy to lift their collective foot a few feet off the floor and do so. C'mon guys -- if you blow this one, you deserve to lose Congress this year -- both houses! Sheesh.

Here's the "kicker" which should prove irresistible -- Bunning's response, on the floor of the Senate, to Democrats upset with his actions: "Tough shit!" If you can't make political hay out of that one, you simply should not be in the field of politics in the first place. "Bunning says tough 'crap' to the unemployed!" How hard is that? Get out there in front of the cameras and say so!

No! No! Not the shiny paper! Not the cardboard box! Ignore the distractions! Stay on message!

Sigh. Well, we'll see....

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

While President Obama had a pretty good week taking charge of the process in the health reform battle by both introducing his own outline for the bill and by holding the meeting with the congressional leadership -- a bold and unprecedented move -- it really would have qualified for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week for a week in, say, last September. That would have been a dandy time to get Republicans around a table, done the bipartisan exercise, and then started threatening reconciliation. This opportunity to (as the White House apparently likes to call things nowadays) be a "game-changer" has mostly passed, though. While Obama's actions this week did resuscitate the effort, the reason the effort was almost dead in the first place is that it has taken far too long to get to this point. Meaning that Obama's actions, while welcome, simply weren't all that impressive this week, due to their belated timing.

But, in a decision that surprises even the judging panel ourselves, this week instead Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wins the coveted MIDOTW award. Harry did a good job sticking up for the concept of reconciliation (more on this in a bit) in the meeting with Obama, which was kind of impressive, but the real reason he wins this week's award is that he got a jobs bill through a filibuster attempt and passed it with 70 votes, including 13 Republicans. I wrote earlier this week about Reid's new strategy for moving legislation in more detail, if anyone's interested. And then Reid really clinched the prize this week by refusing to knuckle under to Jim Bunning, and "calling his bluff" as it were by adjourning on schedule, after a late session Thursday night that ground to a halt due to Bunning.

Look for Republicans to try spinning this one all weekend as somehow Harry Reid's fault -- unsuccessfully. Because Harry Reid is showing signs of spinal fortitude this week, which is a relief since he's going to need quite a bit of it when the health reform reconciliation battle begins anew.

So we salute Majority Leader Reid this week with the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, and sincerely wish him many more such performances in the upcoming few weeks. Well done, Harry!

[Congratulate Majority Leader Harry Reid on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

Hoo boy, this one's easy this week.

In a split decision, two Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards must be handed out this week, to Governor David Paterson of New York, and to Representative Charlie Rangel.

It's so obvious this week, that I will merely provide links to the reason why Paterson will not be running to retain his governorship (it can't be called "re-election" since he was never elected to the position in the first place, but merely took over when another Democrat got mired in scandal), and to Rangel's ongoing ethical problems.

Paterson, to his minimal credit, realized his political career was over, and took the gentleman's way out. Nobody expects Rangel to step down from his powerful House committee chairmanship, though, so in the Olympic spirit I'll award the MDDOTW "gold" to Rangel, and only a MDDOTW "silver" to Paterson.

[Contact Representative Charlie Rangel on his House committee contact page, and Governor David Paterson on his official contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 113 (2/26/10)

Getting health reform passed has so far been like a marathon, I think we can all agree on that at this point. But actually finishing this race has turned out to take an excruciatingly long time. It's as if you're running a marathon, and you get to the last quarter-mile of the run -- only to find out it has been replaced with a full-on Iron Man Triathlon, instead of an easy jog across the finish line.

Sigh.

In any case, the media has woken up and discovered what the blogosphere has been talking about since around October or so (some even earlier) -- the procedure known as "budget reconciliation." Because this is pretty much the only avenue left to get a health reform bill passed this year -- and because the media are just waking up to the possibility and are therefore impressionable -- Republicans are about to light into it like a buzz saw.

Democrats need to be able to counter this full-scale rhetorical attack. They need to be prepared for it, because it has already begun.

Republicans are attempting to define (in the media, the only place that counts, frame-wise) the process as "a parliamentary trick" which is "bending the rules" and "jamming legislation through" or "unprecedented" or 32 other flavors of nonsense.

Democrats need to smack this down, fast, before it takes hold in the blowdried skulls of the media. Fortunately, this is easy. One-by-one:

"It's no more a parliamentary trick than the filibusters Republicans are using."

"Filibusters are a Senate rule. Reconciliation is a Senate rule. One rule is there to counteract the abuse of the other, which is precisely what we are going to use it to do. Both rules are equal -- it's not like one is cheating and one isn't."

"Remember when Republican senators kept chanting the term 'up-or-down vote' as in 'give us an up-or-down vote' -- only a few short years ago? I guess they've changed their tune. Since they began, filibusters have been used by Senate minorities and reconciliation by Senate majorities. The other side always complains, that's just the way things work."

"Since reconciliation came into being, Republicans have used it approximately three times as often as Democrats. We're just trying to catch up, since they've shown that it should be used whenever needed."

"Republicans claim it is unprecedented to use reconciliation for purposes other than what it was intended for. This is nonsense. Republicans tried to rewrite our country's energy policy this way. Republicans turned the purpose of reconciliation on its head when they used it to pass massive tax cuts for rich folks. Instead of balancing the budget, they destroyed the budget and created the deficit we now face. And as for health-related bills, the children's health insurance SCHIP bill was passed this way, as was COBRA -- it's right there in the acronym, look it up if you don't believe me, the 'R' in COBRA stands for Reconciliation."

See? It's not that hard. In fact, it's really easy. But instead of creating a bunch more of those, instead -- for the first time ever, I believe -- I am turning over the talking points part of the program to Republicans. That's right -- the entire rest of the column will be Republican quotes.

Because while they're up so high on their sanctimonious horse right now, Republicans were singing a quite different tune when they had a majority (but not a 60-vote supermajority). Oh, yes, indeedy. A different tune altogether.

So here are Republicans, from only a few years ago, making the case for using reconciliation. [I apologize for not providing links for some of these, as I got them off Lexis/Nexis, which is a subscription site.]

 

Representative Eric Cantor (now House Minority Whip), quoted by Senator Barbara Boxer
The Rachel Maddow Show -- 2/24/10

"Reconciliation is a process I hope we can engage in every year."

 

Senator Judd Gregg
The Rachel Maddow Show -- 2/24/10

"We are using the rules of the Senate here. That's what they are, Senator. Reconciliation is a rule of the Senate. All this rule of the Senate does is allow a majority of the Senate to take a position and pass a piece of legislation, support that position. Now, is there something wrong with majority rules? I don't think so."

 

Senator Judd Gregg, quoted "on the floor in March 2005"
St. Petersburg Times -- 4/4/09

"Reconciliation is a rule of the Senate (that) has been used before for purposes exactly like this on numerous occasions. Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don't think so. ... The point, of course, is this: If you have 51 votes for your position, you win."

 

Senator Pete Domenici
Washington Times -- 3/6/05

"There are some who oppose ANWR who feel that in order for it to happen it must have 60 votes. This way, under the reconciliation -- and I have done this before -- the supporters and opposers have an equal chance."

 

Senator Pete Domenici
New York Times -- 3/9/05

''The people who are for this, ANWR, have to have 51 votes. The people who are against it can take it out with 51 votes. All we're saying is, that seems pretty American, pretty fair.''

 

Senator Pete Domenici
[Press conference transcript] -- 7/29/05

"We have tried bringing it to the floor of the Senate subject to the rules of filibuster, and we have never gotten it through. We've always missed by a couple of votes, always getting more than 50. So, on September the 13th, there will be a reconciliation bill -- I don't have to explain that to you, but I will. It's a direction to my committee -- to our committee, the Energy Committee -- to save money through the raising of revenue, which happens to follow the revenue stream expected by ANWR. We will be able, then, to put an ANWR bill into reconciliation. Reconciliation will be put together with all the other pieces and go to the floor and there will be no filibuster allowed. It will be minimally amendable, if at all. And if that package goes to the floor, we will get ANWR. The president is satisfied with it. The House is satisfied with it. And I guess I could say, if we're going to get ANWR -- and that's what I want -- but if we're going to -- everybody doesn't want that -- that's the way to do it, not putting it on this bill. If we put it on this bill, we wouldn't be here today. There will be a filibuster and we'd get about 58 votes. So that's the answer."

 

Senator Bill Frist (then Senate Majority Leader), when asked about using reconciliation
[Press conference transcript] -- 12/21/05

"But I do want to make it clear that no matter what happens today, no rules are going to be broken. The United States Senate, as all of you know and America understands, is governed by about 45 pages -- or maybe 70 pages of rules and about 1,500, 2,000 pages of precedent. What we will do -- whatever we do today is going to be consistent with those rules and precedents in the future. No rules would be broken."

 

Senator Chuck Grassley, "Senate Floor Statement"
Media Matters -- 4/28/05

"...the reconciliation option is an important tool to have at our disposal."

 

Senator Ted Stevens
[Press conference transcript] -- 3/16/05

Q: The question is that you couldn't try to break this out of the reconciliation package, but can you only do it in the reconciliation -- (off mike)?

SENATOR TED STEVENS: You know, there's no lesson out of a second kick of a mule. We've tried for 24 years to get it down there and get it signed in another way. This, we think, we'll get -- when we get it down there, we'll get signed.

Q: (Off mike) --

STEVENS: And my friend, it's called an election. We won the election. And we promised we'd do this when we won that election, and that -- that's meaningful to me.

 

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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground

Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post

 

-- Chris Weigant

 

28 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [113] -- Republican Reconciliation Hypocrisy”

  1. [1] 
    Moderate wrote:

    On the matter of Obama wanting bipartisanship I've got to quote some comments I've made in the past week. The first of which comes from a Wednesday comment on Tuesday's blog post:

    What is noteworthy, however, is all the talk of "bipartisanship" when the reconciliation process would be tantamount to an admission that there was never really any genuine intent to pass a truly bipartisan bill, but to push through their bill however they could.

    And then, on Wednesday's blog post, a comment that went up on Thursday read:

    President Obama ended Thursday's daylong White House summit with a bang, threatening to push for passage of health care reform without Republican support if a bipartisan agreement remained out of reach.

    And that after Reid said:

    No one from the Democrat side has mentioned 'reconciliation'...

    If that's not reconciliation Obama's talking about, what is it?

    I don't have a problem with Democrat use of reconciliation. But let's call a spade a spade; using it is tantamount to admitting there was no intent to be bipartisan.

    There's nothing wrong with that. But let's be straight about it. The Democrats were elected with a sizeable majority, they shouldn't be afraid to use it and be proud to use it, but what they shouldn't do is try and pass something off as bipartisan when it clearly isn't.

    Bunning refused to let the Senate act. Singlehandedly, Bunning stopped a bill in its tracks which would have kept the unemployment checks flowing.

    This, if Democrats use it properly, could be as big as Newt Gingrich shutting down the government.

    All Bunning did was force the bill to be properly debated rather than just hurriedly passed. He didn't have an issue with extending the benefits, he just wants to have full debate on how it's to be funded. It's unfortunate that benefits will lapse on Sunday, but you cannot justify causing hardship for future generations (via an increased deficit) without debate, simply because the current generation is suffering hardship.

    Democrats should be loudly denouncing Bunning's move to the high heavens, every chance they get over the next few days.

    They've been beaten to the punch. To quote your source article from HuffPo:

    The Senate's GOP leadership did not support him in his objections.

    It's hard to paint the Republicans as devils when they don't even support his objections.

    Repeat after me: Republican obstructionism. Party of No. Republicans don't care about the unemployed.

    Two reasons why it's hard to make that stick:

    1) Thirteen members of the GOP voted for the jobs bill. That's hardly a Party of No.

    2) This was the first Democrat bill to get that sort of Republican support since the current President took office, I believe. That would show that the Republicans are the party that cares about the unemployed, and would have put the unemployed ahead of the uninsured in terms of priority, whereas the Democrats didn't.

    Republicans have no shame about using every advantage the rules allow.

    Why should they? Aren't the Democrats doing the same with reconciliation? The Democrats loved filibusters under Bush and hated reconciliation. Now the roles have reversed. This is simply what always happens in Washington, as you yourself said:

    Since they began, filibusters have been used by Senate minorities and reconciliation by Senate majorities. The other side always complains, that's just the way things work."

    Which is precisely why I think it's outrageous for the Democrats to propose using reconciliation whilst also talking about overhauling the filibuster. And yes, it was equally wrong when the Republicans proposed the same thing. I'm not "taking sides" on this issue; wrong is wrong.

    the Republicans are collectively bent over in front of the Democrats, waving their collective hindquarters in the Democrats' faces, with a giant "KICK ME!" sign painted on the metaphorical GOP buttocks, all the while screaming: "I dare you! Do it!" at the tops of their lungs.

    All the while planning to move their derrieres out of the way at the very last minute, so the Democrats end up kicking themselves in the face. I think the Democrats can only lose by making this an issue; it will only add to the current concerns from the independent voters concerned about the use of their taxes that this is a party that seeks to use their money, or run up debts for their children, without debate.

    You may not agree but that's how a lot of America feels right now. They're worried about their tax money (hence Obama going after the banks) and worried about how this government plans to spend it, as well as what it plans to do about the deficit.

    Because while they're up so high on their sanctimonious horse right now, Republicans were singing a quite different tune when they had a majority (but not a 60-vote supermajority).

    To be fair, the Democrats don't have a supermajority anymore either ;-)

    As for your quotes, since I agree with the Democrat use of reconciliation I have little to take issue with there. But there was one bit that stood out:

    We've tried for 24 years to get it down there and get it signed in another way.

    Now I will plead ignorance over what legislation that related to, but 24 years does seem a lot different to one year. Worth bearing in mind when using that quote. Overall, though, the sentiment that winning an election with a promise that you'll do something justifies use of reconciliation is something I agree with.

    I may not like Obamacare but if the Democrats use reconciliation, that's allowed. Just don't pretend there was ever any intent to be bipartisan about healthcare.

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Moderate -

    I'll get to the rest of your points in a bit, but that last one was a knee-slapper. I think it was drilling in ANWR that took "24 years." Democrats (and some Republicans... Teddy Roosevelt... Richard Nixon, believe it or not) have been trying to get health care for all for 100 years. Or, if you count from FDR, for 80 years. Or from LBJ, 45 years.

    One year is just the current iteration. To compare apples to apples (with the "24 years") you've got to at the very least say "17 years" (since Clinton tried), but I would peg it at a lot more years than that myself.

    -CW

  3. [3] 
    Moderate wrote:

    Democrats (and some Republicans... Teddy Roosevelt... Richard Nixon, believe it or not) have been trying to get health care for all for 100 years.

    Yeah, I knew about Nixon's healthcare reforms. Doesn't the birth of HMOs stem from his presidency? Not sure anyone would consider that a positive reform of the system, mind you.

    One year is just the current iteration. To compare apples to apples (with the "24 years") you've got to at the very least say "17 years" (since Clinton tried), but I would peg it at a lot more years than that myself.

    Touche. The number just stood out at me from the quote, and screamed for me to respond to it. Still, as I then went on to say, the overall sentiment that the use of reconciliation is justified because of the mandate the Democrats have is still sound, and I agreed with that. My point regarding the 24 years was simply a "framing" issue, but I see you've handled that aspect well.

  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Moderate -

    Nixon actually agreed to a plan that is MUCH better than the one Dems are trying to pass now. Senator Teddy Kennedy, at the time, turned it down. This is the best example (on the healthcare issue, at least) of "the perfect being the enemy of the good." If Teddy had taken what Nixon was offering, we would be in a LOT better place as a country on the issue right now. Don't know if that's where HMOs came from, but that may have been from the "half a loaf" sort of thing they wound up with, don't really know.

    I'm not one to usually stand up for Nixon, but have to say it was indeed a missed opportunity.

    I'll answer your previous stuff in a separate comment...

    -CW

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If I felt so inclined, I could find a Biden quote that equates reconciliation with an unadulterated power grab.

    Of course, it would necessarily be out of context. :)

  6. [6] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Moderate -

    I'm getting sick of this from the other side of the aisle. A little recent history is in order, here. When Republicans were running the show (roughly, depending on the house, from Newt Gingrich through Bush to 2006), here is how they approached legislation:

    Get together a majority of the GOP in the House -- the most right-wingiest, of course.

    Write a bill (in the "backrooms").

    Strongarm the rest of their caucus to vote for it (Republicans are, admittedly, MUCH better at doing this than the Dems are).

    Bully the Senate into supporting it (this didn't always work so well for Newt, to be fair).

    If all else failed, use reconciliation in the Senate.

    If that was going to fail, allow the absolute MINIMUM of Democratic amendments in, in order to peel off a few Dems to pass it.

    "Ram it through."

    Oh, and while doing so, complain LOUDLY about the lack of "bipartisanship" to scare the odd Dem into voting for a bill they had ZERO input on.

    Senate Dems, at this point, would indeed filibuster every now and again (a few dozen, at the most, during any 2 year Congressional term). But mostly, Republicans got their way, with (at most) a SHRED of Dem input.

    Now, notice the lack of any "outreach" or "bipartisanship" WHATSOEVER. Not that the media cared, as they have LONG defined "bipartisanship" as "Democrats doing what Republicans want."

    Now jump forward to HCR. Dems in the House started with a bill. They then allowed Republicans to make almost 200 suggestions and changes to the bill, in the spirit of bipartisanship. For this effort, they got zero votes in committee, and one vote on the floor.

    Then it moved to the Senate. From July to November or so, Max Baucus' committee refused to move on it, and tried to get a bipartisan "gang of six" on the committee to hash out a truly bipartisan bill. One of these gang-of-sixers snickered to the press during this time that no matter what changes they got, Republicans were going to vote against it to kill Obama's main legislative effort, NO MATTER WHAT. In other words, they were dealing in bad faith. Sum result: one GOP vote in committee, zero on the floor.

    The GOP complained loudly about the public option. It was watered down, watered down, watered down, and then finally taken out due to Joe Lieberman, who might as well be called a Republican. Tort reform was added, as a pilot program. There are LOTS of pilot programs in the bill, in an effort to see what exactly does bring down costs. Whatever works will likely be beefed up later. This is the same way FDR's New Deal was attempted -- see what works, use what does, and discard what doesn't.

    So let's sum up: GOP got to add things in the House, but not as much as they would have liked. GOP got to delay things in the Senate for four or five months, but no matter what changes were made refused to vote on anything.

    Bipartisanship was attempted on HCR, long before the Obama summit. Not as much as Republicans would have liked, because their definition is always "Democrats agreeing to whatever Republicans want." Well, tough cookies. They are 41/59 in BOTH houses right now, and that's the way it goes.

    From earlier comments you made last week: do you honestly think that even if Republicans were allowed to TOTALLY WRITE the sections on interstate sales and tort reform -- do you honestly think that EVEN THEN a single Republican would vote on it? Dems finally realized this, and are moving forward.

    Tort reform is NOT a magic bullet. Individual states have passed tort reform. California is one of them. It has not kept premiums down. In fact, CA is where one company just raised premiums 39%. WITH tort reform already in place.

    By your earlier numbers, which I do remember from the CBO, if tort reform saves $50b over ten years, then that is $5b a year. THe health industry in the US is a $2.5 TRILLION a year industry. So we are talking about two-tenths of one percent of it. 0.2% -- that's it. In other words, even if tort reform is the best idea since sliced bread, there STILL would be a massive problem.

    Now, I do agree with you that Thurs. there was no real intent (other than Obama himself, as I mentioned in the article) to get anywhere with bipartisanship. But that's because it hasn't gotten Dems anywhere all year. Republican calls to "start all over" mean -- literally -- "not get anything done this year." Again, bad faith effort. But when Republicans were in charge, they didn't even give such LIP SERVICE to bipartisanship -- it was "my way or the highway." THe House leadership even openly admitted this -- as long as they had a "majority of the majority" of the GOP on board, they would jam anything they wanted through. Democrats didn't even figure in the equation -- they were at times quite literally LOCKED OUT of the room where the discussions were being held.

    So you can say Dems aren't perfectly bipartisan, and that's true. But if you compare them to the way Republicans ran things, you'll quickly see that Dems are about 5,000 times more willing to get some input from the other side in what they're doing.

    Just some historical perspective, in other words.

    Having ranted all that, in response to your "2)" above, there have actually been quite a few bills passed with a number of GOP votes in the past year. The media doesn't report on them, because it doesn't fit their storyline. I can dig up an old column which points out a few, if you're interested. The GOP, on other than "media spotlight" issues, actually has been doing a fairly good job at the whole bipartisan stuff, it's just a "tree falling in a forest with no media to cover it" thing, I believe. To be fair, and all.

    As for your comments about reconciliation, I don't have a problem with the GOP shamefully using advantages, as long as the Dems are willing to do so as well. I'm trying to browbeat the Dems into discovering a backbone here, more than beating up on the GOP. It could come off either way, but my intent is to shake the Dems roughly and say "WAKE UP!! They'd do it to you! Don't be a wuss about doing it to them!!"

    In British-ese, I'm trying to give the Dems a "short, sharp shock." Heh.

    AS for the budget and deficit, that's a whole different subject. Suffice it to say, here, that I think there are a lot of people either unemployed or who know someone who is whose main concern is not the deficit right now, but buying food and paying the rent. Politically, this is a loser for the GOP, and the leadership knows it.

    Anyway, this is way too long as it is...

    Hey, I warned you when you first showed up that Fridays were "extra helping of partisan" days... heh heh.

    -CW

  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Moderate -

    Looked it up.

    The "24 years" comment WAS in relation to drilling for oil in ANWR, the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Here is more of the presser, from both Alaskan senators at the time (Murkowski, Stevens):

    SEN. STEVENS: And it's as important to me as the first step that Armstrong took when he stepped off on the moon. I mean, this is a big step, all right?

    SEN. MURKOWSKI: Amen.

    Q Do you retract your statement that you made last week about -- now will you consider another term, based on -- (off mike)?

    SEN. MURKOWSKI: He's not going anywhere.

    SEN. STEVENS: I didn't say I was quitting. I said I was very depressed over having been on this track like a white rat now for 24 years to try and get the Congress to do what was promised us in 1980. And if you went down that same track for 24 years, wouldn't you be a little depressed? I was. I'm backing off of that now. (Laughter.)

    =======
    Because they were from Alaska, they had likely been fighting this fight for 24 years. But seriously, to compare it to man walking on the moon? A bit over the top...

    Oh, what I didn't mention is that ANWR drilling did indeed pass through reconciliation and then was stripped out elsewhere by those wily Democrats. Never made it into law under Bush, even though they tried every year (and used reconciliation on it more than once). In other words, a warning to Dems: reconciliation is NOT the whole battle...

    -CW

  8. [8] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Liz -

    I just know Michale would be more than willing to provide Dem quotes, he's been doing so for a while. Which is kind of what got me to do the research for this article -- I couldn't find any good list of GOP quotes which said the opposite.

    I still firmly believe: the talking points remain the same, it's just the parties who switch places. But the media needs this reminder, because Republicans try to bamboozle everyone into believing they are somehow "pure" whenever these "process" things get debated in the media. I thought Dems needed some ammo, that's all.

    :-)

    -CW

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    It seems that Dems always need ammo and they ignore all that you provide them on a regular basis at their collective peril - of that, there is no doubt!

    And, just between you, me and the four walls ... if Michale provides any more quotes out of context, then I may have to throw something much bigger, and with feeling!

    I'm kidding, of course.

    Sort of.

    :-)

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Just so we're clear on what we are discussing....

    "What I worry about is, you still have 2 chambers of Congress in the House & Senate, but you have complete and absolute authoritarian rule of the majority and that's just not what the founders intended."
    -Senator Obama, 2005

    "{Reconciliation} is a bridge too far, Mr President. We can't go there. You have to restrain yourself, Mr President."
    -Senator Clinton, 23 May 05

    "We are on the precipice of a Constitutional Crisis. The checks and balances are about to be evaporated by the nuclear option. Checks and balances that say that if you get 51% of the vote, you don't get your way 100% of the time."
    -Senator Schumer 18 May 05

    "The right to extend debate is never more important than when one party controls Congress and the White House. In these cases, the filibuster serves as a check on the power of unlimited government."
    -Senator Harry Reid 18 May 05

    "We need to sit down with each other and work things out. That's why the rules exist. That's why we're here. Why have a bicameral legislative body? Why have two chambers? What were the framers thinking about? They understood that there is a tyranny of the majority."
    -Senator Dodd 18 May 05

    "If Republicans use the nuclear option, the US Senate becomes ipsofacto, the House Of Representatives where the majority rules supreme and the party in power can dominate with absolute power."
    -Senator Dianne Feinstein

    "{Reconciliation}.. is a fundamental power grab. I say to my Republican colleagues, you may own the field right now, but you won't own it forever. I pray God when the Democrats take back control we don't make the kind of naked power grab you are doing."
    -Senator Biden, 2005

    And my personal favorite..

    "A Majority Vote makes sense"
    -President Obama, 2010

    " {A Majority Vote}... that's just not what the founders intended."
    -Senator Obama, 2005

    Now, please explain exactly how those are "out of context"..

    They are no more "out of context" than CW's quotes.

    They are quotes from Democrats that refer to reconciliation as all forms of evil and arrogance.

    Granted, hypocrisy is a major part of the politician's psyche..

    But you can't deny the hypocrisy.

    Michale.....

  11. [11] 
    Moderate wrote:

    Chris, I don't have any problem with the Democrats approaching legislation in the way the Republicans have done in the past. That's what a majority party is in power for; the people gave it a mandate, now go use it.

    "Ram it through."

    Oh, and while doing so, complain LOUDLY about the lack of "bipartisanship" to scare the odd Dem into voting for a bill they had ZERO input on.

    There's nothing wrong with that, and if that were all the Democrats were doing I'd have little to complain about when it comes to the Democrats' behaviour on this.

    What, however, the Democrats are doing, is "playing it safe", claiming they want bipartisanship, even going so far as to claim the bill is bipartisan because it has watered down versions of the Republican ideas (presumably so they can blame someone if it all goes horribly wrong), despite no Republican votes for it.

    And then insisting they have no desire to use reconciliation when they clearly do.

    Now, notice the lack of any "outreach" or "bipartisanship" WHATSOEVER.

    Which, for me at least, is a lot better than what I perceive to be a pretence of bipartisanship, a faux outreach, if you will, from the Democrats now. A party shouldn't be afraid of standing or falling by its own policies.

    Bipartisanship was attempted on HCR, long before the Obama summit.

    I'm not sure it was. I've seen the ideas that are claimed to be the Republican ones, and they're largely just voluntary pilot schemes. Interstate trade is left to voluntary schemes that are at the discretion of the states (when they've shown no willingness to open up their borders previously). Tort reform had its knees cut off by insisting that the government would only subsidise those schemes where damages weren't capped (which is one of the best reforms available).

    If the Republicans had fallen for that old trick they'd have been taken for fools.

    You talk about the public option being watered down, but so was every single Republican idea. The difference is that I think the Democrats' ideal public option would have been no more than a trojan horse for single-payer. Many Democrats themselves admitted it was. For me, clearly, the Republican ideas are far better.

    How's that for a healthy dose of Friday partisanship? ;-)

    (Well, technically it's Sunday now, but you know what I mean)

    do you honestly think that even if Republicans were allowed to TOTALLY WRITE the sections on interstate sales and tort reform -- do you honestly think that EVEN THEN a single Republican would vote on it?

    I do actually. I think those are the two things the Republicans want, and they want them done properly (i.e by Republicans - sorry, couldn't resist! It's Partisan Friday).

    Tort reform is NOT a magic bullet

    I didn't say it was. Nonetheless it will save almost half as much as the entire Senate bill will, with no diminishing of the quality of healthcare (the CBO said so). Why not save that money? Why are the Democrats reluctant to include proper Tort reform?

    How can Democrats like Russ Feingold push for a public option they claim will save $25 billion and, with a straight face, resist Tort reform that will save twice that?

    Individual states have passed tort reform. California is one of them. It has not kept premiums down.

    Allow me to quote the nonpartisan CBO in response:

    Studies that simply observe changes in premiums
    over time in states that do, and do not, adopt reforms are less suited to isolating
    the actual effects of tort reform.

    The CBO seem to be suggesting, and I think they're right, that one cannot simply extrapolate the success (or otherwise) of Tort reform based on the state schemes. They go on to suggest that this stems from the fact that state reforms are unable to significantly reduce defensive medicine, whereas the federal proposal would do.

    THe health industry in the US is a $2.5 TRILLION a year industry. So we are talking about two-tenths of one percent of it. 0.2% -- that's it. In other words, even if tort reform is the best idea since sliced bread, there STILL would be a massive problem.

    The senate bill is proposed to save $127 billion over ten years. That's "only" $12.7 billion a year. As for the House bills, what they give with one hand they take away with the other, and the CBO confirmed that both bills put together would likely increase costs, not lower them. So Tort reform would be likely to increase the effectiveness of the existing Democrat proposals by almost 150%.

    $12.7 billion a year is still only 0.5% of $2.5 trillion. So why would that not leave the same "massive problem" you talk about? Why is that the "magic bullet" to fix things?

    Now, I do agree with you that Thurs. there was no real intent (other than Obama himself, as I mentioned in the article) to get anywhere with bipartisanship.

    That's all I wanted to hear. I just wanted someone on the Democrat side to have had the fortitude to shoot straight and say "screw bipartisanship" in so many words. It's all the posturing that gets to me. And yes, the Republicans are doing it too, but the minority party always postures. Majority parties should be stronger.

    Republican calls to "start all over" mean -- literally -- "not get anything done this year." Again, bad faith effort.

    Not sure it's bad faith, they just thinking starting from a flawed foundation is really no way to go. Besides which, we both know it's posturing. If Democrats did, as you say, allow the Republicans to have Tort reform the way they want it (in return, of course, for some concessions the other way), I suspect the GOP would have backed down on its insistence on "starting over".

    But when Republicans were in charge, they didn't even give such LIP SERVICE to bipartisanship

    Call me old fashioned but I prefer that. I like it when a party says "Look, this is what we believe in, this is what we campaigned on, this is what the American people elected us for, and damnit we're going to pass it whether you like it or not".

    Which is precisely why I respect FDR for how he handled business on the New Deal. And look how well it worked out for him. He won not one, not two, not three, but four terms in office and is considered, across party lines, a truly great President.

    Yet we still have Democrats unwilling to bite the bullet. There's still loads of talk about bipartisanship. It just seems, to me, like a party that's afraid to say to the American people "This is who we are, if you don't like it, elect the other lot".

    if you compare them to the way Republicans ran things, you'll quickly see that Dems are about 5,000 times more willing to get some input from the other side in what they're doing.

    The difference is, as you yourself pointed out, the Republicans didn't even pay lip service to the idea of being willing to get input. They were open about being closed, so to speak, and, as you said, the Republican leadership openly admitted that they would jam through anything they wanted if they had a majority. I prefer that.

    All this weakness from a party that still holds sizeable majorities is shocking. At least the Republicans weren't hiding the fact they were saying "screw you" to Democrats.

    My issue isn't with the amount of bipartisanship, but with the unwillingness of the Democrats to admit that they're going to go it alone, and always wanted to. It just seems like too many Democrats are worried about reelection and not their policy.

    Having ranted all that, in response to your "2)" above, there have actually been quite a few bills passed with a number of GOP votes in the past year.

    As soon as I wrote that I thought they must have been. Oh well, I was wrong, but it had little impact on the overall point. It's still tough to argue that a party hates the unemployed when it has broken ranks on a jobs bill.

    As for your comments about reconciliation, I don't have a problem with the GOP shamefully using advantages, as long as the Dems are willing to do so as well.

    What gets to me is that the Democrats want to sugar coat these practices with the veneer of bipartisanship. Like you, although possibly for different reasons, I'd just want them to be less wussy and just go ahead and pass their legislation.

    Then when it sucks I can tear them apart for it ;-)

    (See, I'm OK with playing the "extra helping of partisan" game on Fridays, it's actually a lot of fun to break free of the shackles of having to be balanced).

    Politically, this is a loser for the GOP, and the leadership knows it.

    Although I don't agree that it is a loser, it's clear the leadership does agree with you, which is why they've cleverly hedged their bets. I just can't see any major upside for the Democrats when the Republicans can just say "hey, we denounced him too".

    And if the American people do support his actions, then the Republican will ride his fiscal conservatism all the way to the November elections. You have to admit, they've positioned themselves perfectly on this issue. It's win-win for them no matter what.

    a warning to Dems: reconciliation is NOT the whole battle...

    I've said that before too. Even if they pass it through reconciliation, who's to say that the Republicans won't take both houses in November (highly unlikely, to be fair, but still possible) and try and eat away and erode the Democrats' proposals?

    Especially since, according to the CBO, the cost of the Senate bill (in terms of its revenue-raising portions) will outstrip the spending under it until 2016.

    (Does anyone else find it weird writing about years like 2016 or 2020? I suspect it's all those sci-fi films from my childhood set in a "far away" future of 2015. Which is now only two years away. Where the hell is my flying car? Or my hoverboard?)

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    I know you're a pretty smart guy, so you know very well why your quotes are out of context and not appropriately linked to the current debate on healthcare.

    But, you must think the rest of us here are pretty stupid.

    You know very well that the debate in May 2005 was about judicial nominees and not about budget reconciliation. That's why, for example, you left reconciliation out of Biden's quote above ... not so cleverly, I might add.

  13. [13] 
    Moderate wrote:

    You know very well that the debate in May 2005 was about judicial nominees and not about budget reconciliation.

    Hang on a minute. You're saying tyranny of the majority is more of an issue in respect of judicial nominees (a power that was specifically granted to the President with only an oversight role intended for the Senate) and less of an issue when it comes to legislation? That's a pretty hard argument to make.

    Especially when one considers the role of recess appointments, where the President can happily appoint who he likes without Senate approval.

    If not, much of the same logic that applied then applies now. Either tyranny of the majority was something the founders didn't intend (which I think was precisely why the constitution has so many checks and balances) or it was.

    Obama's quote and Dodd's quote both make reference to rule of the majority not being what the founding fathers intended. Feinstein and Schumer's lines are a little more circumspect and do allow for the use of reconciliation.

    Which is unsurprising as both of them have, I believe, signed on to the letter pushing for a public option via reconciliation. The problem is, the logic that both of them use to push for that is equally, if not more, applicable to Tort reform that the CBO projects will save twice as much as the public option.

    Note, I have not, and still do not, oppose the use of reconciliation. Whilst I'm certain the founding father didn't intent tyranny of the majority, and hence I maintain the filibuster must remain an option for Senate minorities, they did intend a balance between an unlimited government and a hamstrung one.

    Reconciliation allows a duly elected majority to push through some of their agenda (that which can be shown to have an impact on the budget) but not all of it, over and above filibuster. That's precisely what I'd argue was what the founders would have intended, though I believe both the filibuster and reconciliation are more recent developments, the first originating in 1851 and the second in 1974 under the Congressional Budget Act of that year.

    What gets me isn't the accuracy of the 2005 statements. Those were, in my view, an accurate assessment of the founders' intent. What gets me is all the talk of Republican hypocrisy (which is definitely there) when the Democrats are just as guilty. I'm with Michale; all politicians are hypocrites. Damn them.

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    Liz,

    The discussion was regarding reconciliation..

    You say "Judicial Reconciliation" and I say "HealthCare Reconciliation"..

    The simple fact is, Democrats are being hypocrites. They (and ya'all) compound that hypocrisy by trying to A} Pretend it's not and 2} Trying to cover up the hypocrisy with faux-partisanship.

    Regardless of all that, I thought ya'all had made it clear that ya'all were against CrapCare?

    Why the change of heart?? Why, all of the sudden, do you defend it's passing?

    It's a garbage piece of legislation that will do more harm than good.

    It's amazing how the Democratic Party has, once again, painted itself into another perfect lose-lose corner..

    Consider it...

    If Democrats fail to accomplish anything, they will be painted as the Party that is simply incapable of governing... Even with a Super-Majority...

    If the Democrats push thru this crap legislation using parliamentary maneuvering, crap legislation that 75% of Americans DON'T WANT PASSED, then they will be painted as doing something that is very bad for the country, SOLELY for the sake of political survival.

    Democrats are COMPOUNDING this moronic stance by actually pushing the whole debacle CLOSER to the mid-term elections.

    Howz THAT for stupidity.. Rather than get things out of the way as soon as possible, to allow the maximum amount of time possible for the public to forget, Democrats are actually delaying things so that this fiasco is actually closer to the mid-term elections..

    If this was a Tom Clancy novel or a season of '24', then the only possible explanation is that top Democratic Party leaders are actually Republican agents, trying to bring down the Democratic Party..

    As it is, the ONLY thing that makes any sort of sense is complete and utter incompetence by the Democratic Party leadership..

    Seriously...

    Does ANYONE see ANY possibility of an outcome that doesn't totally decimate the Democratic Party??

    Short of a nuclear attack on US soil or First Contact, I don't see how the Democratic Party is going to survive as a majority party in the upcoming mid terms..

    Michale......

  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:

    Trying to cover up the hypocrisy with faux-partisanship.

    That should read, "Trying to cover up the hypocrisy with faux-BI-partisanship."

    I am going on 38 hours awake, so bear with me... :D

    Michale.....

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    Did I say 'judicial reconciliation'? No, I did not. Because that would be confusing apples and oranges, you know. :)

    If the discussion is regarding reconciliation, then why did you include the Biden quote above? As you know, it had nothing to do with reconciliation.

    By the way, here is where your Biden quote comes from ...

    Biden Floor Statement on the "Nuclear Option"

    May 23, 2005

    Mr. BIDEN: Mr. President, my friends and colleagues, I've not been here as long as Senator Byrd, and no one fully understands the Senate as well as Senator Byrd, but I've been here for over three decades.

    I think this is the single-most significant vote any one of us will cast in my 32 years in the Senate, and I suspect the senator would agree with that.

    And we should make no mistake. This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is a fundamental power grab by the majority party propelled by its extreme right and designed to change the reading of the Constitution, particularly as it relates to individual rights and property rights. It's nothing more or nothing less.

    And let me take a few minutes to explain that. Folks who want to see this change want to eliminate one of the procedural mechanisms designed for the express purpose of guaranteeing individual rights and they also, as a consequence, would undermine the protections of the minority point of view in the heat of majority excess.

    We've been through these periods before in American history, but never to the best of my knowledge has any party been so bold as to fundamentally attempt to change the structure of this body.

    Why else would the majority party attempt one of the most fundamental changes in the 216-year history of this Senate on the grounds that they are being denied seven of 218 federal judges, three of whom have stepped down?

    What shortsightedness and what a price history will exact on those who support this radical move. Mr. President, I think it's important we state frankly, if for no other reason than the historical record, why this is being done.

    The extreme right of the Republican party is attempting to hijack the federal courts by emasculating the court's independence and changing one of the unique foundations of the united states senate. That is, the requirement that the protection of the right of individual senators to guarantee the independence of the federal judiciary. This is being done in the name of fairness?

    But, quite frankly, it's the ultimate act of unfairness to alter the unique responsibility of the United States Senate and to do so by breaking the very rules of the united states senate. Mark my words, what's at stake here is not the politics of 2005 but the federal judiciary and the united states senate of the year 2025.

    This is the single-most significant vote, as I said earlier, that I will have cast in my 32 years in the senate. The extreme Republican right has made Justice Ginsburg's "Constitution in Exile," the name of a work he wrote, the framework of that "Constitution in Exile" their top priority.

    It is their purpose to reshape the federal courts so as to guarantee a reading of the Constitution consistent with Judge Ginsburg's radical views of the 5th Amendment's taking clause, the Non-delegation Doe Doctrine, the 11th amendment and the 10th amendment.

    I suspect some listening to me and some in the press will think I'm exaggerating. I would respectfully suggest they read Justice Ginsburg's work, "Constitution in Exile." Read it. Read it and understand what is at work here.

    As I said, if you doubt what I'm saying, then I suggest you ask yourself the rhetorical question, "why for the first time since 1789 is the Republican-controlled Senate attempting to change the rule of unlimited debate, as it relates to federal----eliminate it as it relates to federal judges for the circuit court or supreme court?"

    If you doubt what I say, please read what Justice Ginsburg has written.
    Greve says "what is really needed here is a fundamental, intellectual assault on the entire new deal edifice. We want to withdraw judicial support for the entire modern welfare state." End of quote.

    Read: social security, workmans comp. National labor root relations board. Read. F.D.A., read what all the byproduct of that shift in Constitutional authority meant.

    If you want to hear more of what I'm -- I characterize as radical view -- and maybe it is unfair to say "radical." A fundamental view and what at least must be characterized as a stark departure from current Constitutional jurisprudence, then click onto American Enterprise Institute's web site. Read what they say.

    Read what the purpose is. It's not about seeking a conservative court or placing conservative justices on the bench. The courts are already conservative. Seven of the nine Supreme Court Justices appointed by republican presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II -- seven of nine. 10 of 13 federal circuit court of appeals dominated by Republican appointees appointed by presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. 58% of the circuit court judges appointed by either presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II.

    No, my friends and colleagues, this is not about building a conservative court. We already have a conservative court. This is about guaranteeing a Supreme Court made up of men and women like those who sat on the court in 1910 and 1920.

    Those who believe shall as Justice Rogers does of California, that the Constitution has been in exile, has been in exile since the New Deal.

    My friends and colleagues, the nuclear option is not an isolated instance. It is part of a broader plan to pack the court with fundamentalist judges and to cower existing conservative judges to tow the extreme party line. You all heard what Tom DeLay said after the federal courts refused to bend to the whip of the radical right in the Schiavo case.

    DeLay declared, and I quote, "the time will come for men responsible for this to answer for their behavior" -- end of quote.

    Even current conservative Supreme Court justices are looking over their shoulder with one extremist recalling the despicable slogan of Josef Stalin -- and I am not making this up -- in reference to a Republican appointee, Reagan Republican appointee, Justice Kennedy, when he said, "no man, no problem. Absent his presence, we have no problem."

    Let me remind you, as I said, Justice Kennedy was appointed by president Reagan. Have they never heard of the independence of the judiciary?

    As a fundamental part of our Constitutional system of checks and balances, as there is today literally the envy of the world, the envy of the entire world, and the fear of the extremist part of the world, an independent judiciary is their greatest fear.

    Why are radicals focusing on the court? Well, first of all, it's their time to be in absolute political control because it's there. It's like why did Willie Sutton rob banks? He said because that's where the money is. Why try it now, for the first time in history, to eliminate extended debate?

    Well, because they control every lever of the federal government. That's the very reason why we have the rule. So when one party, when one interest controls all levers of government, one man or one woman can stand on the floor of the Senate and resist, if need be, the passions of the moment.

    But there's a second reason why they're focusing on the courts and that is because they've been unable to get their agenda passed through the legislative body. Think about it. All the talk about how they represent -- represent the majority of the American people. None of their agenda has passed as is it relates to the 5th Amendment, as it relates to zoning laws, as it relates to the ability of federal agencies like the food and drug administration, the E.P.A. to do their job.

    Read what they write when they write about the nondelegation doctrine. That simply means we in the Congress, as they read the Constitution, cannot delegate to the E.P.A. the authority to set limits on how many carcinogens, how much of a percentage of carcinogens can be admitted into the air or admitted into the water.

    They'd insist that we, the Senate, have to vote on every one of those rules, that we, the Senate and the House, with the ability of the president to veto works have to vote on any and all drugs that are approved or not approved.

    You think I'm exaggerating this. Look at these web sites. These aren’t a bunch of wackos. These are a bunch of very bright, very smart, very well-educated intellectuals who see these federal restraints as a restraint upon competition, a restraint upon growth, a restraint upon the powerful.

    The American people see what's going on. They're too smart and they're too practical. They may not know the meaning of the nondelegation doctrine. They may not know the clause of the 5th Amendment relating to property. They may not know the meaning of the 10th and 11th Amendment as interpreted by Mr. Ginsburg and others. But they know that the strength of our country lies in the common sense and our common pragmatism which is antithetical to the poisons of the extremes on either side.

    The American people will soon learn that Justice Janice Rogers Brown, one of the nominees that we are not allowing to be passed, one of the ostensible reasons for this nuclear option being employed has decried the supreme court's -- quote -- "socialist revolution of 1930."

    Read what they say. Read what they mean. The very year that a 5-4 court upheld the Constitutional -- the Constitutionality of Social Security against a strong challenge. 1937, Social Security almost failed by one vote. It was challenged in the supreme court as being confiscatory.

    People argued then that a government has no right to demand that everyone pay into the system, no right to demand that every employer pay into the system. Some of you may agree with that. It's a legitimate argument. But one rejected by the supreme court in 1937 that Janice Rogers Brown refers to as the "socialist revolution" of 1937.

    If it hadn't been for some of the things they've already done, no one would believe anything I'm saying here. These guys mean what they say. And the American people are going to soon learn that one of the leaders of the "Constitution in Exile" school, the group that wants to reinstate the Constitution as it existed in 1920, said that another -- said of another filibustered judge, William Pryor, that -- quote -- "Pryor is the key to this puzzle. There's nobody like him. I think he's sensational. He gets almost all of it." That's the reason why I oppose him. He gets all of it.

    And you're about to get all of it if they prevail. We'll not have to debate about Social Security on this floor. So the radical right makes its power play now and they control all centers of political power, however temporary. The radicals push through the nuclear option and then pack the courts with unimpeded judges who by -- unimpeded judges who by current estimations will serve an average of 25 years.

    The right focused on packing the courts because their agenda is so radical that they're unwilling to come directly to you, the American people, and tell you what they intend. Without the filibuster, President Bush will send over more and more judges of this nature but perhaps three or four supreme court nominations then there will be nothing, nothing that any moderate Republican friends and I will be able to do about it.

    Judges who will influence the rights of average Americans, the ability to sue your H.M.O. that denies you your rights, the ability to keep strip clubs out of your neighborhood because they un -- make zoning laws unconstitutional without you paying to keep the person from not building. The ability to protect the land your kids play on, the water they drink, the air they breathe, and the privacy of your family in your own home.

    Remember, many of my colleagues here say there is no such thing as a right to privacy in any iteration under the Constitution of the United States of America. Fortunately, we've had a majority of judges who's disagreed with that over the past 70 years. But hang on, folks.

    The fight over judges at bottom is not about abortion and a God. It's about giving greater power to the already powerful. The fight is about maintaining our civil rights protections, about workplace safety and worker protections, about effective oversight of financial markets and protecting against insider trading. It's about Social Security.

    What is really at stake in this debate point blank is the shape of our Constitutional system for the next generation. And the nuclear option is a two-fer.

    It excises independence from our courts into the -- and at the same time emasculates the Senate. Put simple, the nuclear option would transform the senate from the so-called "cooling saucer" our Founding Fathers talked about to cool the passions of the day to a pure majoritarian body, like a parliament.

    We've heard a lot in recent weeks about the rights of the majority and of obstructionism. But the Senate is not meant to be a place of pure majoritarianism. Is majority rule really what you want?

    Do my Republican colleagues really want majority rule in this Senate?
    Well, let me remind you, 44 of us Democrats represent 161 million people. 161 million Americans voted for these 44 Democrats. Do you know how many Americans voted for the 55 of you? 131 million. If this were about pure majorities, my party represents more people in America than the Republican party does.

    But that's not what it's about. Wyoming, the home state of the Vice President of this body, gets one senator for every 246,000 citizens. California gets one senator, one senator for 17 million Americans.

    More Americans voted for Vice President Gore than they did Bush by majoritarian logic, Gore won the election. The Republicans control the Senate and they've decided that they're going to change the rule. At its core, it is filibuster's not -- the filibuster's not about stopping a nominee or a bill.

    It's about compromise and moderation. That's why the Founders put unlimited debate in. When you have to -- and I have never conducted a filibuster. But if I did, the purpose would be you have to deal with me as one senator. It doesn't mean I get my way. It means you may have to compromise. You may have to see my side of the argument. That's what it's about.

    Engendering compromise and moderation. Ladies and gentlemen, the nuclear option extinguishes the power of independence and moderates in this senate. That's it. They're done. Moderates are important only if you need to get 60 votes to satisfy cloture. They are much less important if you need only 50 votes. I understand the frustration of my Republican colleagues. I've been here 32 years. Most of the time in the majority.

    And whenever you're in the majority, it's frustrating to see the other side block a bill or a nominee you support. I've walked in your shoes. And I get it. I get it so much that what brought me to the United States Senate was the fight for civil rights.

    My state, to its great shame, was segregated by law, was a slave state. I came here to fight it. But even I understood, with all the passion I felt as a 29-year-old kid running for the senate, the purpose -- the purpose -- of extended debate, getting rid of the filibuster has long-term consequences.

    There's one thing I've learned in my years here, once you change the rules and surrender the senate's institutional power, you never get it back. And we're about to break the rules to change the rules. I don't want to hear about fair play from my friends. Under our rules, you're required to get a two-thirds vote -- I mean, excuse me, 60 votes to change the rules.

    Watch what happens, watch what happens when the Majority Leader stands up and says to the Vice President, if we go forward with this, and he calls the question. And one of us, I expect our leader on the Democratic side, will stand up and say, "parliamentary inquiry, Mr. President. Is this parliamentary appropriate -- parliamentarily appropriate?" and in every other case that I've been here in 32 years, the presiding officer leans down to the parliamentarian and says, "what's the rule, Mr. Parliamentarian?" the parliamentarian turns and tells him. Hold your breath, parliamentarian.

    He's not going to look to you because he knows what you would say. He would say, this is not parliamentarily appropriate. You cannot change the Senate rules by a pure majority vote.

    If any of you think I'm exaggerating, watch on television. Watch when this happens. And watch the vice president ignore -- he's not required to look to an unelected officer. But that has been the practice for 218 years. He will not look down and say, "what is the ruling?"

    He will make the ruling, which is a lie. A lie about the rule. Isn't what really going on here, the majority doesn't want to hear what others have to say, even if it's the truth?

    Senator Moynihan, my good friend who I served with for years, said "you're entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts."

    The nuclear option abandons America's sense of fair play. It's the one thing this country stands for. Not tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field. I say to my friends on the Republican side, you may own the field right now but you won't own it forever. And I pray god when the Democrats take back control, we don't make the kind of naked power grab you are doing

    But I'm afraid you will teach my new colleagues the wrong lessons. We're only temporary custodians of the Senate. But the Senate will go on. And I can see my time is up. Let me conclude by saying again, mark my words. History will judge this Republican majority harshly if it makes this catastrophic move.

    I yield the floor.

  17. [17] 
    Moderate wrote:

    Michale,

    Short of a nuclear attack on US soil or First Contact, I don't see how the Democratic Party is going to survive as a majority party in the upcoming mid terms..

    Well, I wouldn't quite go that far, but I fully expect them to be savaged come November and end up with a narrow majority in the Senate (Around 53 seats
    including the two independents) and a narrow minority (220-215 at best, to 230-205 at worst) in the House. Some polls suggest as many as 60 seats in the House could switch to the Republicans, but I can't see it myself.

    If it were to happen, however, 195 House seats and 53 Senate seats, with Joe Lieberman always willing to vote with the Republicans, would make it almost impossible for Obama to get much done. That's why there's even a hint that he might be willing to be bipartisan on this because he knows he could face a hostile Congress after November. Actually, it's almost certain that he will.

    Liz,

    I've still got ask the question I asked earlier. Are you saying that tyranny of the majority is more of an issue for judicial nominees than legislation?

    Some of the Democrats' comments in 2005 can be limited to their scope (Bush judicial nominations being filibustered) but others were much broader. Many of them made mention to majority rule being against the intent of the founding fathers. President Obama himself was one of those who did so.

    Isn't reconciliation all about majority rule? Michale's right, the Democrats are being hypocrites too, and denying it only makes you look bad in light of all the evidence. Reid talking about the filibuster being a crucial check on the power of a party that controls both the White House and Congress and yet when faced with that exact scenario, seeming intent on reconciliation.

    The only thing lessening Reid's hypocrisy is that so far he hasn't been one of those backing reform of the filibuster. Don't get me wrong, I think it should be reformed a bit (not as far as some suggest, but a bit) but what I don't like is people calling the Republicans hypocrites (which they are being) whilst the Democrats get a free ride when demonstrating the same hypocrisy.

    Call a spade a spade. Politicians, Republican or Democrat, are being total and utter hypocrites on this matter. Chris almost admitted as much when saying that this is precisely how majority and minority parties behave, the only difference is which party is in which role. A little honesty goes a long way (so kudos to Chris for showing some, even on Partisan Friday).

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Moderate,

    I'm sorry ... ahem ... pardon me ... but you are completely missing the point!

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Moderate,

    In other words ...

    I've still got ask the question I asked earlier. Are you saying that tyranny of the majority is more of an issue for judicial nominees than legislation?

    No, I am not. I'm saying that you are confusing two completely separate issues here. The debate that was focused on judicial nominees had nothing whatsoever to do with reconciliation.

  20. [20] 
    Michale wrote:

    Moderate,

    Well, I wouldn't quite go that far, but I fully expect them to be savaged come November and end up with a narrow majority in the Senate (Around 53 seats
    including the two independents) and a narrow minority (220-215 at best, to 230-205 at worst) in the House. Some polls suggest as many as 60 seats in the House could switch to the Republicans, but I can't see it myself.

    By pushing this CrapCare debacle closer to the mid-terms and making it so that this train-wreck is upper most in people's minds, I fully expect that the GOP will eek out slim majorities in both the House and Senate.

    Like I said above, short of a major catastrophe to supplant the CrapCare issue in the American people's minds, Democrats are gonna take a thumpin' this November.

    Remember, you heard it here first. :D

    If the discussion is regarding reconciliation, then why did you include the Biden quote above? As you know, it had nothing to do with reconciliation.

    Biden Floor Statement on the "Nuclear Option"

    Uh, Liz..

    You DO realize that "the Nuclear Option" *IS* Reconciliation, right??

    The debate that was focused on judicial nominees had nothing whatsoever to do with reconciliation.

    The aspect of the debate that is relevant here was on reconciliation as it pertained to judicial nominees.

    CW and Moderate are partially correct when they say that reconciliation is a normal part of the Senate process. Well, maybe "normal" is not entirely accurate. Let's say that it is a legitimate tool in the Senate process.

    But I submit that it's use to pass HealthCare is NOT legitimate. In THIS context, it's a parliamentary trick to bypass the will of the American people.

    Democrats were against Reconciliation before they were for it.

    And they run the risk of looking like morons by accusing the GOP of hypocrisy over the Reconciliation issue because of their blatant hypocrisy over the same issue.

    Moderate is right.. Democrats should man up and just say, 'This is what we're doing. We're the majority, so frak off.'

    By trying to pass off the whole thing as a failed exercise in bi-partisanship, they look like hypocritical fools. And the GOP is laughing all the way to the polls...

    80% of the American people are political ideologues. They vote the Party line up and down. Since that 80% is split pretty much evenly down the middle, the Parties must address the remaining 20%.

    And that 20%, by their very nature, are NOT stupid. They know what bi-partisanship looks like and they KNOW that what the Democrats have been doing is NOT bi-partisanship in any way, shape or form.

    By continuing to blab on and on about bi-partisanship, when it's obvious that it ain't, the Democrats are pushing most, if not ALL, of that 20% firmly to the Right.

    And THAT is why Dems will take a huge beating in the upcoming mid-terms..

    Michale....

  21. [21] 
    Moderate wrote:

    No, I am not. I'm saying that you are confusing two completely separate issues here. The debate that was focused on judicial nominees had nothing whatsoever to do with reconciliation.

    And as I said, many of the quotes simply said that majority rule wasn't what the founders intended. No mention of limiting this to judicial nominations, just that the founders didn't intend tyranny of the majority. I point you again to Obama's quote and Dodds' too, neither of which limited their scope to judicial nominees.

    How, then, do you explain those comments?

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Moderate,

    Do you want me to answer that? Again?

  23. [23] 
    Moderate wrote:

    I'd like you to answer it in a way that isn't contradictory. On one hand you say that tyranny of the majority is of equal concern, whether it's judicial nominees or legislation, on the other you're saying "But that wasn't about reconciliation, that was about judicial nominees". Yet both involve 51-vote majorities.

    It's quite simple really. Obama and Dodds both said that majority rule was not what the founding fathers intended. Neither limited that to appointments, both simply said tyranny of the majority was not what the founders intended. Either that applies to reconciliation too, or you're arguing that majority rule is less of a concern for legislation than judicial nominees. Pick one. I don't care which.

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Moderate,

    ...both simply said tyranny of the majority was not what the founders intended. Either that applies to reconciliation too, or you're arguing that majority rule is less of a concern for legislation than judicial nominees. Pick one. I don't care which.

    You’re confusing me ... granted, it doesn’t take much. :)

    As I understand it, reconciliation is all about majority rule and is allowed under the rules of the Senate for certain matters that are related to the budget. Historically, it has been used on a relatively limited basis. The 2005 nuclear option, on the other hand, was an attempt by senate Republicans to change the rules of the Senate, by a majority vote, in an effort to eliminate the right to filibuster any judicial nominee.

    In other words ... reconciliation, good ... nuclear option, bad.

    However, my only purpose in this thread is to question Michale's use of the Biden quote above (about the 2005 debate over senate rules and the threat by Republicans to change those rules - through majority vote, by the way - in an effort to eliminate the right to filibuster judicial nominees) in a futile attempt to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the vice president with respect to the use of reconciliation to pass a healthcare bill in 2010.

    As is quite par for the course, people are - purposefully, or ignorantly - equating what Biden was talking about in 2005 wrt judicial nominees with what might happen today wrt healthcare reconciliation without understanding the first thing about what that 2005 debate was all about. In other words, Michale offered up the Biden quote not only out of context but without having any relevance to the subject of this thread. And, THAT is what sticks in my craw, so to speak, and for reasons that should be fairly obvious to you by now. :)

    To be clear, the so-called 'nuclear option' in 2005 involving judicial nominees was NOT about reconciliation - not then and not now. I am not making any judgement on whether or when majority rule should be allowed or be of concern in the US Senate. Though, I would say that the framers struck a pretty good balance between majority rule and minority rights. But, as I said, that is entirely beside the point I'm making here.

    The nuclear option was all about changing the rules of the Senate to take away the right for a senator or senators to filibuster a judicial nominee. The use of reconciliation is a whole other animal and not relevant to judicial nominees, hence the "need" for the nuclear option in the first place.

    And, so ... my bottom line here is to say that if you are going to use a Biden quote to support your arguments (are you listening, Michale!?), then just be sure that the quote is in context and relevant to the subject matter at hand. And, that’s all I have to say about that.

  25. [25] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Liz and Moderate and Michale -

    OK, here's my take on things. Liz is right, there's context you have to take into consideration on the quotes being bandied about. You can't just ignore the context of the quotes, if you're going to use them to support your argument.

    As for the Constitution, it just says "advise and consent" for appointees, but actually doesn't address how bills should pass. It does outline some supermajorities for very specific cases, though -- impeachment (2/3) and amending the Constitution (3/4), for instance.

    But the "nuclear option" of a few years ago does indeed differ from what Republicans are trying to make it now. Then, it would have involved a big change to Senate rules, which would have been semi-permanent (another Senate would have actively had to change it back). Now, it does not, because the 1974 Senate rule changes (76? I forget) where reconciliation was introduced would not have to change at all -- even if Biden himself had to oversee the Senate to beat back Republican objections and superfluous amendments.

    So it is apples and oranges, in one way, and it is not, in another way, since both involve the difference between simple and super majorities.

    Call a spade a spade. Politicians, Republican or Democrat, are being total and utter hypocrites on this matter. Chris almost admitted as much when saying that this is precisely how majority and minority parties behave, the only difference is which party is in which role. A little honesty goes a long way (so kudos to Chris for showing some, even on Partisan Friday).

    Oh, I agree completely, that sort of honesty is par for the course here. Democrats and Republicans are both utter hypocrites on this issue (and many others) but that's part of the accepted game in Washington -- the real trick is to get the media to either buy into or ridicule the position.

    Which is why I attempt to show Democrats how to do so. Hypocritical on my part? Perhaps. But a wise thing to do because the blowdried media has the memory and attention span of a houseplant? Undoubtedly.

    Michale -

    The "nuclear option" of changing the Senate rules on allowing filibusters on judicial nominees has nothing to do with "reconciliation" which is short for "budget reconciliaiton." They are indeed two separate issues. Now, you can fully argue that they are the same "tyranny of the majority" type of issue, but technically they are different things. So, while related, they're not equivalent, except in moral arguments, which you're free to make. All I'm saying is don't overdefine the term "reconciliation" into something it's not. "Tyranny of the majority" works a lot better to convey the same meaning.

    I actually think you undercut the independent middle, though, in your estimates. I would say about 60 percent (30/30) are party diehards, and about 40 percent is in the middle -- the ones who determine elections. I have nothing to base this on but gut feeling, but since it helps your argument I don't think you'll have too much of a problem with my numbers.

    But you have to at least admit that while what you say about Democrats is true in general (again, reconciliation is not technically the nuclear option as it was defined back then), that the inverse is also true: Republicans were for it before they were against it.

    There's plenty of hypocrisy to go around, in other words.

    As for my way-too-early picks, I say Dems lose about 25 seats in the House (plus or minus five) and five seats in the Senate (plus or minus two). Dems hold both houses. If I'm wrong about either house, it'll be the House (could see a landslide for GOP there, just wouldn't bet on it at this point). Just my off-the-cuff guess.

    -CW

  26. [26] 
    Michale wrote:

    Well, we can argue semantics and what the definition of 'is' is all day (and night) :D

    But whether you call it the nuclear option, reconciliation or tyranny of the majority, it all boils down to one thing.

    Democrats are trying to do an end run around the will of the people, using a parliamentary maneuver in a manner in which it was not designed for.

    Hence, a "trick"..

    The same kind of "trick" that they castigated Republicans for in 2005. Democrats are trying to "hide the decline" and, in doing so, are subverting the will of the American People.

    Hence the hypocrisy.

    But you have to at least admit that while what you say about Democrats is true in general (again, reconciliation is not technically the nuclear option as it was defined back then), that the inverse is also true: Republicans were for it before they were against it.

    No argument from me on that. It's the nature of the political beast..

    My only point is, and has been ad naseuem, is that when it comes to hypocrisy (and many other nasty habits), the Right is no worse than the Left. And the Left is no better than the Right.

    Michale.....

  27. [27] 
    Moderate wrote:

    You’re confusing me ... granted, it doesn’t take much. :)

    You're too humble. So far you strike me as a very intelligent woman.

    However, my only purpose in this thread is to question Michale's use of the Biden quote above

    Well, in that case, we're in agreement. Biden's quote was very specific in what it was talking about. The nuclear option is not reconciliation, it was United States v Ballin.

    I'd count Biden's quote along with Feinstein's and Schumer's, they were clever enough to limit the scope of their words to the nuclear option. My issue was far more with Obama's, Dodd's and to a lesser extent, Reid's comments. Those were overly broad and do open all three to accusations of hypocrisy now. Which makes it hard for them to call Republicans hypocrites (even if they're right) because, as Michale said, it could bite them on the arse.

    Where Biden's comment is far more pertinent, however, is the Democrats' attempts to reform the filibuster, which some have claimed would need only 51 votes. Those who claim that 51 votes (well, 50 with Biden breaking the tie) are enough are invoking the nuclear option. I'd be curious to see where Biden stands on that issue now.

    But, as I said, that is entirely beside the point I'm making here.

    And that, I suspect, is where you and I are at cross-purposes, and hence the confusion. For me, Democratic use of reconciliation and their attempts to reform the filibuster are connected. Reconciliation serves to counterbalance filibuster. If you weaken filibuster so that only 51 votes are needed to pass a bill, you're essentially broadening reconciliation beyond its current limits (i.e matters related to the budget) to cover all legislative issues.

    As you say, the framers were careful to strike a balance between majority rule and rights of the minority party. I recognise that this thread isn't about that, per se, but I've always been a "big picture" sort of guy so I see filibuster reform and reconciliation as inexorably linked. Whenever any party (and yes, I criticised the Republicans for doing this too) seeks reform of the filibuster to weaken it whilst also using reconciliation, I think it's necessary to look at whether this is tyranny of the majority, and ask questions about that party.

    So it is apples and oranges, in one way, and it is not, in another way, since both involve the difference between simple and super majorities.

    Yep. That, I suspect, is why Liz and I appear to be in disagreement. We're looking at the same issue from different perspectives. The two are technically different, but both evoke the same debate about tyranny of the majority in my mind, hence my earlier comments.

    that sort of honesty is par for the course here.

    And that is precisely why you're the first blog to ever get me to question whether I'm a moderate Republican or more of a blue dog Democrat. If it weren't for my opposition to Obama's Presidency, I suspect I might have hopped the aisle, but as it is, I'm staying red.

    Hypocritical on my part?

    I wouldn't say so.

    I would say about 60 percent (30/30) are party diehards, and about 40 percent is in the middle

    That sounds about right. I've always said it's about 70% (35-35) and 30% independent, but I think with the current climate there's an increasing number of independent voters disillusioned with both parties, so the numbers are probably closer to yours right now.

    As for my way-too-early picks, I say Dems lose about 25 seats in the House (plus or minus five) and five seats in the Senate (plus or minus two). Dems hold both houses. If I'm wrong about either house, it'll be the House (could see a landslide for GOP there, just wouldn't bet on it at this point). Just my off-the-cuff guess.

    I based my picks on five thirty eight. They put the modal number on the Senate at 53 (I'm just a tad more generous to the Republicans, naturally) and the modal number on the House in the low 40's. They do allow for the possibility it could be as high as 60, though I'm not quite that optimistic. Still can't see the Democrats retaining the House, although I'd be shocked if they don't retain the Senate.

  28. [28] 
    Michale wrote:

    The nuclear option is not reconciliation, it was United States v Ballin.

    During the 111th congress, opponents of Democratic legislative initiatives incorrectly began to refer to the budget reconciliation process as the nuclear option.[6] For a discussion of the legislatively-enacted reconciliation process, which only requires a majority vote, but which - unlike the nuclear option - does not alter Senate rules, see Reconciliation (United States Congress). Before late 2009, the term nuclear option had been used only to refer to the procedure outlined below.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_option

    I stand corrected..

    But in my own defense, Democrats also refer to Reconciliation as "the nuclear option" as well, so...

    Irregardless, my original point stands.

    The parliamentary trick being used by the Democrats in this instance is an end run around the will of the American people..

    And I STILL haven't gotten any response on why all of the sudden there are a bunch of new proponents of CrapCare... :D

    Michale.....

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