Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Filibuster Fight

The fundamental issue behind the Republican attempt to eliminate the filibuster is whether the American system was intended to be run on the principle of mob rule, or whether it was meant to include checks on the tyranny of the majority. Ironically, Republicans and Democrats have, for the moment, switched sides on this issue, with the Democrats now defending checks on unlimited majority rule.

As appalling as that contradiction is, this is how the American system has managed to survive more than a century of concerted attacks by statists on all sides of the political debate. Every party tries to destroy the American system and impose mob rule when they feel they have a majority--witness the Republicans today--but they all rally to defend the American system when they are in the minority.

"Filibuster Fight Isn't Lost for Democrats Yet," Maura Reynolds, LA Times, 4/13/05

"The arithmetic is fairly straightforward. Frist says he needs 51 votes to change the filibuster rule, and there are 55 Republicans in the Senate. One of those votes can come from the vice president, who as president of the Senate can vote to break a 50-50 tie. That means that in order to win the fight, Frist can change the rules if he loses five senators; Democrats will win if he loses six. Two Republicans--John McCain of Arizona and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island--have said they would vote with the Democrats against the rule change. Four other senators have said they have concerns about changing the rules and are considering voting against it....

"Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid...referred to comments by former Senate Majority Leader and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, who told National Public Radio earlier in the day that 'you have to be very careful...before you start tinkering with the rules' because one day Republicans will be in the minority and need to use the filibuster.... Democrats argue that unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate was designed by the Founding Fathers to be a forum that decided issues more on consensus and not strictly by majority rule."