Filibuster or Philly Buster?

I wonder how many Americans can accurately describe the importance of the filibuster. Whatever the number, I suspect even fewer can assess the impact of yesterday’s rule change.

Some who hear about it rather than read it might even think it is a splendid new cheese steak offering with which to shorten their lives.

Here’s what they know for sure: anything called “nuclear option” is either heaven on earth or the end of western civilization depending on whether they are Democrats or Republicans. It does not matter a fig if this is true or not. They will think it is important and that is all that counts.

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, with the sometimes-shaky support of his fellow Democrats, changed the rules. For confirmation of federal judges and about 1000 Presidential appointees – but not Supreme Court Justices – majority rules instead of the 60-vote hurdle that had become increasingly frustrating.

A win for the blue team over the red? Nope. The new rule is a win for the offense over the defense. As long as a Majority Leader can keep his troops in line, anyone can be confirmed to any position. But, as in football or baseball, sometimes your team is on offense and sometimes it is not.

The big winners are those who get candidates elected. The fear that the other guys will be on offense means that both sides will try harder and spend more. Price increases to follow.

If the President’s team controls the Senate, he has clear sailing while the other side settles for a breathtaking fund raising opportunity. If the President’s team does not control the Senate, the nominees will have to be closer to the middle lest they languish.

Judges, who serve for life, matter more than the resumé-builders who will use their tenure as an entrée to the influence business.

Tit-for-tat partisanship is another big winner. You-did-it-to-us, we-do-it-to-you will increase significantly. Those who have seen batters hit by pitches followed by retaliations a few innings later will readily understand.

One rule did not change. All 100 senators get free flip-flops on this one. If they are on offense it is good for the “American people.” If they are on defense, let the tantrums begin, but they get the fund-raising bonanza as a consolation prize.

Oh, and one other big winner: Maine Senator Angus King. He is the only Independent in the Senate (Bernie Sanders doesn’t count). Under the right circumstances, imagine what his vote might be worth.

But look on the bright side. The higher stakes might influence the slate of Republican candidates.

 

 

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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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