Ezra Klein: Tear down that filibuster wall

  • Article by: EZRA KLEIN , Washington Post
  • Updated: January 1, 2010 - 6:02 PM

On Dec. 8, 1964, Mike Manatos wrote a letter that explains what's wrong with the Senate in 2009. As Lyndon Johnson's liaison to the Senate, he was writing to update his bosses on Medicare's chances in the aftermath of the 1964 election. Surveying the incoming crop of senators, Manatos counted a solid majority in favor of the president's effort. "If all our supporters are present and voting we would win by a vote of 55 to 45," he predicted. That letter would never be written now. In today's Senate, 55 votes isn't enough to "win," or anything close to it; it's enough to get you five votes away from the 60 votes you need to shut down a filibuster. Only then, in most cases, can a law be passed.

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concernedduhJan. 1, 10 6:20 PM

The idea is to keep everyone involved and force to a compromise. The problem happens when the majority has no interest in working with the minority and excludes them completely. The outcome of a super majority is total disregard of opposing views and the ability to pass extremist legislation that wouldn't be possible under a more balanced situation.

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concernedduhJan. 1, 10 7:33 PM

I'm stating the facts, in response to pouting. It appears to me that the super majority and the author are pouting. The republican party isn't even being asked to compromise and is being totally excluded, which is the strong arm tactic I mentioned above.

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ranger1873Jan. 1, 10 9:17 PM

But that's what we've come to expect from the WaPo and the Strib. But it advances the Party line, so on the opinion page it goes. The recession's seeds were sown by Bill Clinton, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank wrecking Fannie and Freddie, and it came to roost when a Democrat Congress was signing the checks. The liberal media's absolute refusal to hold their Democrat masters accountable for their actions is as predictable as it is frustrating for those who know better.

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nortcydJan. 1, 10 9:37 PM

Can you have complete control, all the necessary votes, and still blame the right for all your ills. You won, we get it.

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Bill8927Jan. 2, 10 1:06 AM

C'mon, Mr Klein--can you break it down further? What was the % when Harry Reid was Minority Leader, and what's the % been since the Dems won control of the Senate (in 2006?)

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silver004Jan. 2, 10 1:46 AM

...and while we're at it, let's rip up the constitution too, Ezra.

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natrefJan. 2, 10 6:56 AM

The GOP knows it is. There is nothing about cost reduction and are fighting to keep for that end. But the Dems have locked them out. The only thing the Dems have done is sold their votes. If this was truly good legislation, even for heavy handed politics, the Dems have the votes. It's come down to the vote of 1 over the vote of the remaining 99. Your analysis is pretty poor, Ezra.

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notwavesJan. 2, 10 7:11 AM

Let's look at who we're electing. Perhaps it time to eliminate the term career from elected office. Benefits should exist for your term and end just like any other job. Why would a part time job have a retirement option at the end of the term?? Eliminate the perks and you may get people that want to do the job.

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loyalrepubJan. 2, 10 7:24 AM

There's nothing wrong with the Senate. If the Dems really wanted everything they say they want, they'd force Republicans to filibuster and plaster it all over C-SPAN. The public would be outraged to see how the elite 1% who owns 70% of what there is to be owned manages the country to fill our own pockets and shut out the other 99%. The Senators all work for the elite 1%. This Democrat/Republican divide is all theatre. Look at the results. Who profits in the end? No matter which party is in power, the 1% acquire more and more, and the 99% retain less and less. The idea of a vibrant middle-class is over because the 1% have gotten tired of delaying gratification, and it's time to grab while the getting is good. Fine for me because I'm in with the 1%. Become a trusted retainer of those people. They need managers to do the actual work, just as medieval kings needed courtiers. Ezra should graduate from middle-school Civics and understand how power and money really work. The filibuster (or threat of it) is a fig leaf to cover the real work the Senate is doing; cementing the final act of the squeezing of America. Get yourself on the right side of that and you'll be fine.

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ljw15222Jan. 2, 10 8:34 AM

It doesn't matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican. Threatening a filibuster to require a supermajority of 60 votes is bad for us all. When the upper house of Congress can no longer function, our legislative branch is effectively shut down. The legislation being considered doesn't matter either. To say it is ok for the Republicans to threaten a filibuster because they know the healthcare bill is a "disaster" misses the point. Does that mean it would be ok for a minority to stop or delay a vote on going to war or defense spending in general? The bottom line is this should not be a partisan issue. We should all encourage senators, Democratic and Republican, to do the job they were sent to Washington to do, which is legislate, not grandstand. In the end the people will decide with their votes if the legislation was a disaster.

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