ChrisWeigant.com

The Third Nuclear Option

[ Posted Thursday, August 22nd, 2019 – 17:49 UTC ]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appears worried. He's concerned that not only may the Democrats take control of the chamber away from him next year, but that they could then move to abolish the legislative filibuster altogether. The idea does seem to be gaining some momentum among Democrats, although not everyone's convinced it would be a good idea as of yet. But should the Democrats, if they get the chance, 'drop the third nuke' and get rid of the filibuster for once and for all, or should they retain this undemocratic Senate tradition, perhaps with some reforms?

Harry Reid may have spurred McConnell to write today's New York Times opinion piece, since Reid argued in the same pages earlier this month that Democrats should indeed just do away with the legislative filibuster in order to get some things done. Reid used to hold the same leadership position that McConnell now does, so this is a real battle of Senate heavyweights, past and present.

Reid knows a thing or two about these "nuclear options," since he launched the first strike when Democrats held the majority. Reid abolished filibusters for all presidential appointees, including federal judges up to (but not including) Supreme Court justices. McConnell warned him at the time that he would live to regret such a decision, and when McConnell took over the Senate's leadership, he retaliated with the second nuclear option -- the removal of the filibuster for Supreme Court justices. Now the only part of the filibuster triad that remains is the legislative filibuster, where the Senate routinely requires 60 votes to move legislation forward. If Democrats dropped the third nuke, then there would be no filibusters left at all, and the Senate would go back to being a majority-rules house, just like the House of Representatives.

Note that "go back to being" in there. Although McConnell skates right up to the edge of lying about it, the filibuster is not in the Constitution and was never used by the Founding Fathers. McConnell blithely describes it as being "downstream from our founding tradition," but this is only true in the sense that everything that ever happened in American political life could be described by the same phrase. Yes, it all happened after the founding of the country, but that is definitely not the same thing as the founders intending it to happen. The fact is that the founders could easily have included a supermajority rule for the Senate, as they explicitly wrote in several supermajority rules (such as when the Senate votes on impeachment proceedings, to cite just one example). But they left the Senate as a majority-rules institution for legislation. So if you're going to argue about the "founders' intent," you've got to admit that they thought a majority of senators should be able to pass bills, period. Getting rid of the legislative filibuster would merely return us to the Senate the founders intended, in other words.

Would that be a smart thing for Democrats to do, or would it wind up biting them in the political hindquarters, down the road? Well the answer could be "yes, and yes." The presidential appointment nuclear option certainly has impacted Democrats negatively, as McConnell has rushed through as many conservative judges as he possibly can, seeing as how there's a Republican in the White House. Progressives are horrified by this, in fact, but it is a direct result of Harry Reid dropping that first nuke. But what many don't realize is that the tables will eventually turn -- Democrats did their best to confirm Obama's judicial nominees, but then they lost the Senate. There won't be parity until the Democrats hold both the Senate and the White House again, but when that takes place they'll be able to hustle just as many progressive judicial picks through, and thus even out the balance in the federal judiciary.

The legislative filibuster has been heavily abused in the past two decades, which is what has increased the frustration against it to the point where its abolition is even being discussed. Both parties blame the other for this escalation, and both parties have at times pushed what used to be the limits on filibuster use. It has now gotten to the point that almost any legislation has to get 60 votes in order to pass, whereas the filibuster used to be reserved for momentous legislation that was worth gumming up the parliamentary works to object to. But we are where we are, so rehashing the past is kind of futile, at this point.

The filibuster has also been weakened in recent years, with the adaptation of an end-run around it. Anything that can conceivably be linked to the federal budget uses what is known as "reconciliation," meaning all sorts of things can pass with only a majority vote. The Republicans' effort to abolish Obamacare used this, and it was only because of three brave Republicans that it survived -- Democrats couldn't have blocked it on their own. Democrats have also used the reconciliation rules to their advantage when they controlled the chamber. So is it really that big a leap to just chuck out the filibuster altogether?

Well, maybe... but then again, maybe not. Just think of what the GOP could have achieved with Trump in the White House if the Democrats hadn't been able to use the filibuster. For two years the GOP had complete control over Congress and the White House. That would have meant a muscular conservative agenda would have flown through Congress and been signed into law. It's always easier to contemplate what your own side would do in a majority-rules Senate than to reflect on what would happen when you were the "out" party, after all. But the pendulum swings, and sooner or later the GOP will control everything again, even if the Democrats take full control after the 2020 election. So while progressives might get all sorts of good things done without a filibuster, eventually they'd be out in the cold once again, watching conservatives have their own legislative field day.

Perhaps a compromise might work better. Since the filibuster isn't actually part of the Constitution, it can be adjusted at any time. There's nothing magic about the three-fifths number -- in fact, before the last filibuster reform in the 1970s, it was actually set at two-thirds, or 67 votes. So maybe filibusters should still be allowed but the threshold lowered to 55 votes to move legislation forward? That would certainly allow for more legislation to move without making the Senate a totally majority-rules institution.

Of course, another obvious reform -- and one I've supported in the past -- would be to make the senators actually filibuster once again. Make them stand and deliver their hours-long speeches, as they used to have to do. Make it a lot harder to filibuster anything, and it might not be used so often.

It has been interesting to hear what the Democratic presidential candidates have to say on the filibuster issue. Some have strongly supported dropping the third nuke, some have been lukewarm, and some have cautioned against it. It's a valid subject for debate among Democrats, although none of the candidates would really have anything to do with the process (it would be entirely up to the Senate to decide what rules it wants to follow -- the president would have no role in this process at all). It is entirely fitting to hear what Senate leaders (past and present) have to say about it, though, since both Reid and McConnell know full well all the ramifications of change are for their chamber.

If the filibuster is abolished, it will likely never return, for the same reason it has not for presidential appointments and judicial picks. The only party who gets upset, after all, is the "out" party -- and they don't have the power to change things at all. Once they win back the Senate and become the "in" party, they want to get their own licks in under the new rules. Partisan control has already flipped once since Reid dropped the first nuke, and while at the time Republicans swore up and down that they'd reinstate the judicial filibuster, once they won control they conveniently forgot about those pledges. After all, they'd just retaken the majority, so why should they immediately lessen their own power out of some sense of fair play? But sooner or later -- in 2020 or beyond -- the Democrats will win back control once again. McConnell's second nuke -- abolishing Supreme Court nomination filibusters -- is likely not going to be changed back by the new Democratic majority.

Likewise, if the legislative filibuster is done away with -- if the third nuke is launched -- it will likely never return again. For better or worse, American government will have shifted to a fully majority-rules Congress once again. There would be very little the minority party could do to stop the "tyranny of the majority" that Alexis de Tocqueville warned us all about. Much of the gridlock in Washington would be unlocked, and if one party held both houses of Congress and the White House, then they could move their agenda forward boldly and swiftly.

This would certainly be a change, but would it wind up being a change for the better or not? The gridlock in Washington is easy to hate, but then again it stops us from wild swings in law every four years. Presidents already overturn as much of their opponents' presidential legacy as they think they can realistically get away with (indeed, Donald Trump has made overturning as much of what Barack Obama did a centerpiece of his presidency). What if we had Congresses doing the same thing? What if things like Obamacare came into being during one administration and then just as easily were wiped out by the next? Would that really be an improvement to our current legislative system?

It's impossible to know the answer to that until we see such a new system in action. It would always be satisfying for the new "in" party to move large chunks of their political agenda forward, unhampered by a Senate filibuster, but it would be downright horrifying for the "out" party to see all their gains wiped out just as easily, when they lost control. The only brake on the system would become a divided Congress, with one house in Democratic hands and one house in Republican hands. This would return us to gridlock. Or introduce some degree of legislative stability, if the removal of the filibuster ushered in wild swings every few years.

The rampant abuse of the filibuster that he has overseen is not, as McConnell strives to present it, any sort of historic or normal occurrence. It is, in fact, what has driven Democrats to the point of considering abolishing it once and for all. When a parliamentary tool becomes nothing short of a blunt instrument -- which has happened in various ways (beyond just the filibuster) in both chambers over the course of American history -- then there often comes a breaking point. Perhaps we are fast approaching such a breaking point. If this is so, McConnell need look no further than his own mirror for the reasons why Democrats might just decide to launch that third nuclear option.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

23 Comments on “The Third Nuclear Option”

  1. [1] 
    Paula wrote:

    The problem for Dems is that if they don't abolish the filibuster if they get the chance they have zero guarantee the Repubs won't abolish the next time THEY get the chance. IOW, Dems holding off on the theory it might prevent future Repubs from the third nuke is meaningless because Repubs can't be trusted. You can't make deals - explicit or implied, with liars. You have to take action with the expectation Repubs will respond dishonestly and with malice, and try to build that into your strategy.

    So if we're damned if we do and damned if we don't I say let's do it, push as much through as fast as possible and see what happens. Coz in the end it is always harder to get rid of programs etc. once ppl have experienced them. The ACA is still largely alive and trying to end it is hurting the GOP.

    If Dems finally fully internalize the understanding that they are dealing with dishonest people who do not have America's best interests at heart, they might be emboldened to...boldness. And clear communication. There are individual Dems who get this but collectively there's still some hesitation. But it's fading.

  2. [2] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    So let's review. In the past six months I've read strenuous commentary from the liberal side of American politics that:

    1) The Senate should abolish the filibuster so that a majority vote is all that's needed to pass legislation. The minority party should no longer have a veto in the Senate.
    2) The Supreme Court should be enlarged and/or term-limited so that it can't be dominated for decades the random chance of when justices die or retire just when certain political parties control the presidency and Senate.
    3) The Electoral College should be curbed or abolished, so that a majority vote of the people reliably results in their choice becoming president. This one kicked into overdrive just this week when a court reminded us all that the Constitution says nothing about Electors voting according to their state's popular vote, nor even about their being chosen by popular vote in the first place.
    4) National elections should be conducted by the federal, not state, authorities, or at least regulated and secured by them, to prevent 'voter fraud' and more relevantly, to prevent foreign, criminal, partisan, or corporate interference in the process.
    5) Gerrymandering should be replaced by computer-driven algorithms to assign electoral districts in mathematically fair ways, to best ensure that a popular vote results in the majority's choice actually winning and taking office.

    This reminds me of the Progressive / New Deal era, when a half-century's worth of political domination by industrial robber barons led to two successive waves of pro-democratic legislation and constitutional amendments. In this case the conflict follows from the liberal narrative that the Republicans, seeing their party's fundamental message losing ground with the next generation of diverse, urbanized, and increasingly cynical young people, have been doing everything they can to sabotage or hijack the basic democratic machinery of the national and state governments.

    So what is, as Chris asks about his commentary on #1, the potential downside of the Dems achieving #1-5 in the 2020s?

  3. [3] 
    TheStig wrote:

    This article was an unsettling read. I have a gnawing feeling that there is no good solution to the filibuster problem. The filibuster is the low head dam downstream from the Constitution. Perilous to cross, if you miscalculate and capsize it will pull you under to drown.

  4. [4] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Don't forget that Americans have a ready response: divided government. Republicants seem so bad at economics that the cycle keeps repeating, too. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    As for John's question, I'm for all, but I'm sure that they would each be hard fought in the courts for years.

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    One thing you fail to address whence you mention "wild swings back and forth" and the travails of the "out party" is the effect that a Congress (especially Senate) that could actually DO THINGS. You will recall that in the teeth of the GOP's Great Recession #MoscowMitch declared that rather than getting America back on it's feet his priority was to "make Obama a one-term President." I say, let both sides have the ability to do their thing and let the voters pass judgement on the results, every 2 (or 6) years! If a Progressive government's agenda gets results then keep voting them in. If the Conservative vision works better, keep voting them back in. Cause and effect...action and response to said actions.

    As it stands Congress is like a disfunctional Fire Department in that no fire never gets extinguished unless
    (1) 60% of the Fire Department agree that "there's a fire" and thence (2) 60% of them must agree on exactly how to best put out the fire. This is folly.

    I direct y'all to
    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/08/democrats-filibuster-2020/596572/

  6. [6] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    What a great choice. Keep the filibuster and get nothing done or get rid of it and keep that in check with divided government that gets nothing done.

    Except that is not accurate.

    With or without the filibuster there is no divided government.

    Both CMPs work for the big money interests so divided government is an illusion.

    With or with out the filibuster nothing gets done for ordinary citizen but everything gets done for the big money interests.

    There's nothing wrong with discussing symptoms, but it becomes pointless and part of the problem if all you discuss is symptoms without addressing the cause and all possible solutions.

    We won't know if One Demand can improve our political system by providing real divided government (divided between big money legislators and small donor legislators while the transition to real democracy occurs), but we do know that leaving the big money interests in control doesn't work for anyone other than the big money interests.

    Let's find out.

  7. [7] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    OOps.

    That should be we won't know if One Demand can improve our political system by providing real dived government until we try it...

  8. [8] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    In a way, media that only covers the symptoms without addressing the cause and all possible solutions are filibustering progress on achieving democracy.

    It's time to unleash and enact the fourth nuclear option (One Demand) on the big money interests and their lackeys in both CMPs.

  9. [9] 
    Bleyd wrote:

    I would be interested in seeing a filibuster that gradually weakened over time. It would still exist as normal, requiring a 60 vote supermajority to overcome, but only at first. After a certain amount of time, that threshold would drop, and continue dropping incrementally until eventually only a simple majority would be necessary to overcome it. Perhaps every 30 days, the number required to overcome the filibuster would reduce by 1. After 30 days, only 59 votes would be needed, after 60 days, 58 votes, 90 days, 57 votes, etc. It would take the better part of a year for the vote threshold to reach a simple majority, but the part of the purpose of the senate is to slow down the passage of legislation, so that would make sense. And if there's a 59 vote majority being held up by a filibuster, the filibuster can only delay things by 1 month instead of indefinitely.

    I think this would incentivize both sides in various situations. If a piece of legislation is too important to postpone, the majority would still need to come to the negotiating table to adapt it to get it passed quickly. The filibuster would still exist as a check on the majority. But for less pressing legislation, the opposition is incentivized to negotiate in good faith because they can no longer just wait out the clock until the legislation dies. They'll know it will get through eventually if they just sit there, so negotiation is necessary to get anything they want out of it. The filibuster is reduced back to a stall tactic used to buy time to negotiate, not a minority veto.

  10. [10] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Fauxcahontas is taking a real hit on Huffpo today, from a GENUINE Cherokee.

  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @bleyd,
    very interesting suggestion. the trouble is, as soon as one party "reduces" the filibuster, the next party will just eliminate it anyway.
    JL

  12. [12] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Bleyd,

    I like your ideas on the filibuster. I was thinking that maybe by limiting the number of filibusters a party is able to use during each session might make them prioritize what legislation they want to block.

    We also need to figure out how to shame those in Congress who view “compromising” as a bad word. Republicans have made “working across the isle” considered an act of treason amongst their ranks. I am sick of hearing people accuse Democrats of voting against legislation “simply because Trump is for it.” No! That was the Republican Party’s game plan for all of Obama’s eight years in office, but Democrats vote on legislation based on the merits of the legislation; not on who will get credit for signing it into law if it passes!

  13. [13] 
    dsws wrote:

    So if you're going to argue about the "founders' intent," you've got to admit that they thought a majority of senators should be able to pass bills, period.

    I don't have to admit any such thing. The framers of the Constitution told us flat-out, with zero wiggle room, in the Constitution itself, that the Senate should be able to operate under whatever rules the Senate chooses to operate under. Sure, they assumed that those rules would involve normal majority voting. But that's not the same as intending to tell the Senate what it should do.

    I don't like the 60-vote threshold for passage of bills. But I don't think there's anything magical about 50% of a legislative chamber.

    The workings of a simple winner-take-all plurality election system tend to magnify the power of the largest group of voters, even if it's not a majority. If districts were perfectly homogeneous (as an extreme example), and if the votes were split as evenly as possible among five parties, then a bare plurality of voters, 20% plus a fifth of a vote if the number of voters were one more than a multiple of five, would translate to winning 100% of the seats in the legislature. I would rather see there be some things that require supermajority votes in a legislative chamber, and other things that can be done with less than a majority.

  14. [14] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @dan,

    how would you decide which class of thing pertained to which vote threshold?

    JL

  15. [15] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    CRS [10]

    Yeah, I read that and it sure was a weak argument that seemed to only accept evidence that supported the author’s position and wrote off any that disputed it based on the author telling us that was what we needed to do! They didn’t offer any evidence to refute what was being claimed, they simply hoped we’d take them at their word when they asked us to ignore the scientific evidence in favor of their opinion.

    I am also wondering what the point was other than to attack Warren politically. Warren never claimed to be a tribal member of the Cherokee Nation, only that she had grown up being told she had a family member that had been Native American. The DNA test confirmed this.

    The author was also incorrect in claiming that people who did not want to admit they were of Native American bloodline were not able to deny it to the government. Historical documents have clearly documented how tribal members who could pass as white often went to great lengths to hide their bloodline.

    My parents grew up in Atmore, Alabama — a small town on the AL/FL border that surrounds the Creek Nation’s reservation. Growing up in the South in the 40’s and 50’s, it was better to be Black than to be Creek. My father’s father was most likely part Creek, but he would never have admitted it. I only learned this after moving onto the Crow Reservation and some of the Crow wondered why I hadn’t told them that I had “some blood” in me. I told them that I didn’t think that I did, but they pointed to various photos of my grandfather and said that HE definitely did. My grandfather had passed away years earlier, so I wrote and asked my grandmother if there was a chance that he’d been part Creek. A week after I mailed her the letter, my grandmother called me with my answer. She said that since I was living on a reservation and it would be viewed as a positive thing, and as long as I never mentioned it to other family members, she wouldn’t deny that he was part Creek! She would not admit it and she definitely didn’t want to put anything in writing...she simply would not deny it! That should hopefully tell you just how negatively her generation viewed Native Americans and to what lengths some people went to hide their ancestry!

  16. [16] 
    dsws wrote:

    @nypoet,

    My favorite idea on how to set up a hypothetical legislature changes frequently. It's hypothetical, so why not?

    My current favorite is to have one chamber that proposes stuff, and another chamber that votes approves or rejects it.

    In the First Chamber, the representatives would be chosen by some form of proportional-representation voting system. The legislative process would go according to the following pseudo-code:

    Start legislative session:
    Approve rules of proceedings by majority vote, under
    pro-tem leadership and pro-tem rules specified at
    the end of the previous legislative session.
    Choose chamber leadership.
    Chamber leadership assigns committee membership.
    Representatives form caucuses.
    ## Representative do not keep any component-votes,
    ## "yea" bill-votes, "nay" bill-votes, or priority
    ## points from previous sessions.
    Start whole-bill cycle:
    {
    Each representative gains five component-votes.
    Each representative gains ten priority points.
    Each representative gains five "yea" bill-votes.
    Each representative gains two "nay" bill-votes.
    ## Note: Representatives DO keep any votes and
    ## points that they have from previous whole-bill
    ## cycles of the same legislative session.
    Representatives confer in committees and caucuses, in
    accordance with the current rules, to draft
    bill-components and plan strategy, for a length of
    time specified in the rules.
    Each representative may propose one bill-component
    for the chamber to (possibly) vote on.
    Each representative may apply as many of their
    points as they choose to any bill-component.
    The twenty bill-components having the most points
    are voted on, in order of decreasing points.
    Each representative may cast one vote in favor of
    any bill-component, as long as they have a vote to
    spend. Any bill-component receiving votes from at
    least 20% of representatives thereby becomes
    available for inclusion in bills.
    Representatives confer in committees and caucuses, in
    accordance with the current rules, to compile bills.
    A bill can consist only of available bill-components.
    Any number of bill-components may be included in
    a bill.
    Each representative may apply any number of their points
    to each bill.
    The ten bills having the most points are queued for
    voting, in order of decreasing number of points.
    ## Component-availability phase is complete. There will
    ## be another one in the next whole-bill cycle, and
    ## components DO remain available from one whole-bill
    ## cycle to the next within a legislative session.
    ## Bill-components do NOT remain available from one
    ## legislative session to the next.
    Start bill-vote cycle:
    {
    Each representative can spend at most one bill-vote on
    the bill, either "yea" or "nay".
    If the bill receives a number of "yea" bill-votes that
    exceeds the number of "nay" bill-votes it receives
    by at least 30% of the number of representatives,
    that bill is passed. It goes to the Second Chamber.
    Go to the next bill in the queue.
    } ## End bill-vote cycle.
    Go to next whole-bill cycle.
    }
    Pass pro-tem rules and choose pro-tem leadership for next session.

    The representatives in the Second Chamber would be chosen as follows:

    There are 90 members of the Second Chamber. Citizens are divided into constituencies by birthday. Members are elected for six-year terms. Terms are staggered so that there's an election every four months, with five members being elected at each election. (Six years, times three elections per year, times five members per election: 6x3x5=90.) Members are elected by dual-threshold approval voting: citizens vote yes or no for every candidate on the ballot, and the candidate with the most "yes" votes is elected if that number exceeds the threshold. To be elected as a full member, able to vote both for and against bills, a candidate has to get "yes" votes from at least 55% of voters. If the candidate with the highest number of "yes" votes gets "yes" votes from at least 50% but less than 55%, that candidate is elected as a negative member, who can only vote against bills. If no candidate receives at least 50% "yes" votes, that constituency is unrepresented for that term.

    Because all representatives are elected from similar constituencies by a majority/supermajority process, the chamber should be conducive to consensus decisions. To pass a bill, the votes for must be at least 55% of the total votes for and against. Of course, representatives in the First Chamber will know this, as they try to craft bills that will be able to pass the Second Chamber.

  17. [17] 
    dsws wrote:

    Trying again ...

    @nypoet,

    My favorite idea on how to set up a hypothetical legislature changes frequently. It's hypothetical, so why not?

    My current favorite is to have one chamber that proposes stuff, and another chamber that votes approves or rejects it.

    In the First Chamber, the representatives would be chosen by some form of proportional-representation voting system. The legislative process would go according to the following pseudo-code:

    Start legislative session:
    Approve rules of proceedings by majority vote, under
    pro-tem leadership and pro-tem rules specified at
    the end of the previous legislative session.
    Choose chamber leadership.
    Chamber leadership assigns committee membership.
    Representatives form caucuses.
    ## Representative do not keep any component-votes,
    ## "yea" bill-votes, "nay" bill-votes, or priority
    ## points from previous sessions.
    Start whole-bill cycle:
    {
    Each representative gains five component-votes.
    Each representative gains ten priority points.
    Each representative gains five "yea" bill-votes.
    Each representative gains two "nay" bill-votes.
    ## Note: Representatives DO keep any votes and
    ## points that they have from previous whole-bill
    ## cycles of the same legislative session.
    Representatives confer in committees and caucuses, in
    accordance with the current rules, to draft
    bill-components and plan strategy, for a length of
    time specified in the rules.
    Each representative may propose one bill-component
    for the chamber to (possibly) vote on.
    Each representative may apply as many of their
    points as they choose to any bill-component.
    The twenty bill-components having the most points
    are voted on, in order of decreasing points.
    Each representative may cast one vote in favor of
    any bill-component, as long as they have a vote to
    spend. Any bill-component receiving votes from at
    least 20% of representatives thereby becomes
    available for inclusion in bills.
    Representatives confer in committees and caucuses, in
    accordance with the current rules, to compile bills.
    A bill can consist only of available bill-components.
    Any number of bill-components may be included in
    a bill.
    Each representative may apply any number of their points
    to each bill.
    The ten bills having the most points are queued for
    voting, in order of decreasing number of points.
    ## Component-availability phase is complete. There will
    ## be another one in the next whole-bill cycle, and
    ## components DO remain available from one whole-bill
    ## cycle to the next within a legislative session.
    ## Bill-components do NOT remain available from one
    ## legislative session to the next.
    Start bill-vote cycle:
    {
    Each representative can spend at most one bill-vote on
    the bill, either "yea" or "nay".
    If the bill receives a number of "yea" bill-votes that
    exceeds the number of "nay" bill-votes it receives
    by at least 30% of the number of representatives,
    that bill is passed. It goes to the Second Chamber.
    Go to the next bill in the queue.
    } ## End bill-vote cycle.
    Go to next whole-bill cycle.
    }
    Pass pro-tem rules and choose pro-tem leadership for next session.

    The representatives in the Second Chamber would be chosen as follows:

    There are 90 members of the Second Chamber. Citizens are divided into constituencies by birthday. Members are elected for six-year terms. Terms are staggered so that there's an election every four months, with five members being elected at each election. (Six years, times three elections per year, times five members per election: 6x3x5=90.) Members are elected by dual-threshold approval voting: citizens vote yes or no for every candidate on the ballot, and the candidate with the most "yes" votes is elected if that number exceeds the threshold. To be elected as a full member, able to vote both for and against bills, a candidate has to get "yes" votes from at least 55% of voters. If the candidate with the highest number of "yes" votes gets "yes" votes from at least 50% but less than 55%, that candidate is elected as a negative member, who can only vote against bills. If no candidate receives at least 50% "yes" votes, that constituency is unrepresented for that term.

    Because all representatives are elected from similar constituencies by a majority/supermajority process, the chamber should be conducive to consensus decisions. To pass a bill, the votes for must be at least 55% of the total votes for and against. Of course, representatives in the First Chamber will know this, as they try to craft bills that will be able to pass the Second Chamber.

  18. [18] 
    dsws wrote:

    Drat, that didn't work either.

    @nypoet,

    My favorite idea on how to set up a hypothetical legislature changes frequently. It's hypothetical, so why not?

    My current favorite is to have one chamber that proposes stuff, and another chamber that votes approves or rejects it.

    In the First Chamber, the representatives would be chosen by some form of proportional-representation voting system. The legislative process would go according to the following pseudo-code:

    Start legislative session:
    Approve rules of proceedings by majority vote, under
    pro-tem leadership and pro-tem rules specified at
    the end of the previous legislative session.
    Choose chamber leadership.
    Chamber leadership assigns committee membership.
    Representatives form caucuses.
    ## Representative do not keep any component-votes,
    ## "yea" bill-votes, "nay" bill-votes, or priority
    ## points from previous sessions.
    Start whole-bill cycle:
    {
    Each representative gains five component-votes.
    Each representative gains ten priority points.
    Each representative gains five "yea" bill-votes.
    Each representative gains two "nay" bill-votes.
    ## Note: Representatives DO keep any votes and
    ## points that they have from previous whole-bill
    ## cycles of the same legislative session.
    Representatives confer in committees and caucuses, in
    accordance with the current rules, to draft
    bill-components and plan strategy, for a length of
    time specified in the rules.
    Each representative may propose one bill-component
    for the chamber to (possibly) vote on.
    Each representative may apply as many of their
    points as they choose to any bill-component.
    The twenty bill-components having the most points
    are voted on, in order of decreasing points.
    Each representative may cast one vote in favor of
    any bill-component, as long as they have a vote to
    spend. Any bill-component receiving votes from at
    least 20% of representatives thereby becomes
    available for inclusion in bills.
    Representatives confer in committees and caucuses, in
    accordance with the current rules, to compile bills.
    A bill can consist only of available bill-components.
    Any number of bill-components may be included in
    a bill.
    Each representative may apply any number of their points
    to each bill.
    The ten bills having the most points are queued for
    voting, in order of decreasing number of points.
    ## Component-availability phase is complete. There will
    ## be another one in the next whole-bill cycle, and
    ## components DO remain available from one whole-bill
    ## cycle to the next within a legislative session.
    ## Bill-components do NOT remain available from one
    ## legislative session to the next.
    Start bill-vote cycle:
    {
    Each representative can spend at most one bill-vote on
    the bill, either "yea" or "nay".
    If the bill receives a number of "yea" bill-votes that
    exceeds the number of "nay" bill-votes it receives
    by at least 30% of the number of representatives,
    that bill is passed. It goes to the Second Chamber.
    Go to the next bill in the queue.
    } ## End bill-vote cycle.
    Go to next whole-bill cycle.
    }
    Pass pro-tem rules and choose pro-tem leadership for next session.

    The representatives in the Second Chamber would be chosen as follows:

    There are 90 members of the Second Chamber. Citizens are divided into constituencies by birthday. Members are elected for six-year terms. Terms are staggered so that there's an election every four months, with five members being elected at each election. (Six years, times three elections per year, times five members per election: 6x3x5=90.) Members are elected by dual-threshold approval voting: citizens vote yes or no for every candidate on the ballot, and the candidate with the most "yes" votes is elected if that number exceeds the threshold. To be elected as a full member, able to vote both for and against bills, a candidate has to get "yes" votes from at least 55% of voters. If the candidate with the highest number of "yes" votes gets "yes" votes from at least 50% but less than 55%, that candidate is elected as a negative member, who can only vote against bills. If no candidate receives at least 50% "yes" votes, that constituency is unrepresented for that term.

    Because all representatives are elected from similar constituencies by a majority/supermajority process, the chamber should be conducive to consensus decisions. To pass a bill, the votes for must be at least 55% of the total votes for and against. Of course, representatives in the First Chamber will know this, as they try to craft bills that will be able to pass the Second Chamber.

  19. [19] 
    dsws wrote:

    One last try.

    CW, my apologies. My dim memory, based on whatever's going on with the second attempt, was that this site allows monospace text, but doesn't show it right on the preview (hence the posting, instead of just previewing). Please delete all but one copy, keeping whichever is least unreadable.

    @nypoet,

    My favorite idea on how to set up a hypothetical legislature changes frequently. It's hypothetical, so why not?

    My current favorite is to have one chamber that proposes stuff, and another chamber that votes approves or rejects it.

    In the First Chamber, the representatives would be chosen by some form of proportional-representation voting system. The legislative process would go according to the following pseudo-code:

    Start legislative session:
    Approve rules of proceedings by majority vote, under
    pro-tem leadership and pro-tem rules specified at
    the end of the previous legislative session.
    Choose chamber leadership.
    Chamber leadership assigns committee membership.
    Representatives form caucuses.
    ## Representative do not keep any component-votes,
    ## "yea" bill-votes, "nay" bill-votes, or priority
    ## points from previous sessions.
    Start whole-bill cycle:
    {
    Each representative gains five component-votes.
    Each representative gains ten priority points.
    Each representative gains five "yea" bill-votes.
    Each representative gains two "nay" bill-votes.
    ## Note: Representatives DO keep any votes and
    ## points that they have from previous whole-bill
    ## cycles of the same legislative session.
    Representatives confer in committees and caucuses, in
    accordance with the current rules, to draft
    bill-components and plan strategy, for a length of
    time specified in the rules.
    Each representative may propose one bill-component
    for the chamber to (possibly) vote on.
    Each representative may apply as many of their
    points as they choose to any bill-component.
    The twenty bill-components having the most points
    are voted on, in order of decreasing points.
    Each representative may cast one vote in favor of
    any bill-component, as long as they have a vote to
    spend. Any bill-component receiving votes from at
    least 20% of representatives thereby becomes
    available for inclusion in bills.
    Representatives confer in committees and caucuses, in
    accordance with the current rules, to compile bills.
    A bill can consist only of available bill-components.
    Any number of bill-components may be included in
    a bill.
    Each representative may apply any number of their points
    to each bill.
    The ten bills having the most points are queued for
    voting, in order of decreasing number of points.
    ## Component-availability phase is complete. There will
    ## be another one in the next whole-bill cycle, and
    ## components DO remain available from one whole-bill
    ## cycle to the next within a legislative session.
    ## Bill-components do NOT remain available from one
    ## legislative session to the next.
    Start bill-vote cycle:
    {
    Each representative can spend at most one bill-vote on
    the bill, either "yea" or "nay".
    If the bill receives a number of "yea" bill-votes that
    exceeds the number of "nay" bill-votes it receives
    by at least 30% of the number of representatives,
    that bill is passed. It goes to the Second Chamber.
    Go to the next bill in the queue.
    } ## End bill-vote cycle.
    Go to next whole-bill cycle.
    }
    Pass pro-tem rules and choose pro-tem leadership for next session.

    The representatives in the Second Chamber would be chosen as follows:

    There are 90 members of the Second Chamber. Citizens are divided into constituencies by birthday. Members are elected for six-year terms. Terms are staggered so that there's an election every four months, with five members being elected at each election. (Six years, times three elections per year, times five members per election: 6x3x5=90.) Members are elected by dual-threshold approval voting: citizens vote yes or no for every candidate on the ballot, and the candidate with the most "yes" votes is elected if that number exceeds the threshold. To be elected as a full member, able to vote both for and against bills, a candidate has to get "yes" votes from at least 55% of voters. If the candidate with the highest number of "yes" votes gets "yes" votes from at least 50% but less than 55%, that candidate is elected as a negative member, who can only vote against bills. If no candidate receives at least 50% "yes" votes, that constituency is unrepresented for that term.

    Because all representatives are elected from similar constituencies by a majority/supermajority process, the chamber should be conducive to consensus decisions. To pass a bill, the votes for must be at least 55% of the total votes for and against. Of course, representatives in the First Chamber will know this, as they try to craft bills that will be able to pass the Second Chamber.

  20. [20] 
    Paula wrote:

    [15] Listen: Wow.

  21. [21] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Listen [15]

    You seem to be saying that your ancestors and their peers in that part of the country were simultaneously extremely reluctant to admit to having Indian genetic heritage, but totally happy to be interbreeding with them, evidenced by the very existence of the Indian genes.

    That's a bit of a stretch, is it not?

  22. [22] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @crs[21],

    personal preferences are sometimes at odds with the demands of society. it's not a stretch at all, it's human nature.

    JL

  23. [23] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    CRS,

    White males have a long history of a condition known as “situational bigotry” — a sudden willingness to set aside their racist views if sex is a possibility. Their offspring were left to deal with the consequences of this condition. Those that could pass as white would have avoided being around family members from the other race that made up half of their bloodline for fear of having their secret exposed and because they were not fully accepted by either race.

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