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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Congress Stuff

And Also: More on indulgences. Those new Kashi commercials are cute -- helped that I got that free cookie in the mail a few months back. Those new Playtex bra ads also seem woman friendly -- of course, the breast stuff might be seen differently if you are a guy.

[Update: Sadly, it is not surprising that it was not made clear -- including btw on shows like Rachel Maddow -- why exactly sixty votes were needed in the Senate. Truthfully, it was a de facto filibuster rule, but technically it was a special budget rule for deficit spending. One that had Democratic support actually, which underlines my support for some form of a supermajority requirement. So, I oppose ending it, but am quite open to the ideas in comments here as to limiting it somehow.]
The NYT fronts and the WP teases the revelation that before Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., was appointed to President Barack Obama's old Senate seat, former governor Rod Blagojevich's brother asked Burris to help Blagojevich raise campaign funds. Burris declined to do any fundraising and no one's charging him with wrong doing on that score. The trouble is that this is now the third distinct version of Burris' recollection of his contacts with the former governor. In fact, Burris' new story pretty plainly contradicts what he told the Illinois House of Representatives impeachment committee while he was under oath. Illinois lawmakers are now calling for a formal investigation.

Let me be fair here. There is an argument that there is nothing to see here and/or we need to wait and see. But, it's hard. And, some people on the left know it. It would have been better to have waited until the governor was removed before seating the guy. We are talking about a matter of weeks. Now, there is still more doubt as to the legitimacy of the appointment. The Senate had and would have had some reason to -- via its election judging authority -- delay seating. In a close case, even having Blagojevich's successor appoint Burris would have helped.

LGM thought there was no real case to avoid seating Burris; we also disagree on the filibuster rule. [See comments, including Brien] One thing that annoys me in particular is the claim that nothing would have been differently in the Bush years without a filibuster rule. Putting aside that changing a basic rule like that would probably change the balance of things, especially in the long term, there is a basic problem -- the Democrats could have done more. If they had the will and true Democrat votes.

In a sad way, perhaps this shows how majority rule (or some form of it) really won out. But, it also is a reflection of the differences between how the parties are currently constituted. It also is the true problem, imho, of how the stimulus bill worked out. I think is fair that when 47% or so of the country voted against Obama that their representatives, or some rough form of them, would have something to say about the stimulus package. In the real world, entrusting them with virtual representation of the politicians voted by the other 53% (or so) is not really enough.

So, we have some -- probably open to tinkering -- means to give the minority to check things in a limited fashion. To think, as some comments at the link suggest, that things like the courts of the Constitution alone will protect the interests of such a significant majority -- when much is left to the political processes (how does the courts protect minority economic interests these days, again?) -- is dubious. Yes, the Senate is already slanted because of representation of small states, but that is a separate issue. The problem is when one party acts in lockstep. The Dems simply have not done this, sometimes to its (and our) detriment. The Republicans have ... ditto.

And, it is the lockstep (including following Bush, even in lieu of congressional duties) that is the real problem. The fact that a significant amount of the country, even now, disagree with Obama suggests that it is fair to temper major economic measures to some degree. It's somewhat you learn in kindergarten -- learn how to share, don't let the wishes of the three overwhelm the desires of all the five. The two have a partial veto, but must realize they are in the minority.

This includes accepting that when the three compromises, that they should recognize the fact, and not try abuse the fairness of the three. The true line here is the filibuster rule. It is a bit absurd that after Republicans were given clear respect by the President (contra to how Bush treated the Democrats on judges, e.g.) and compromises were made, that the Republicans in effect acted as a block to try to prevent the measure from even coming up to a vote. This simply gives too much power to three or so Republicans. The lockstep in the House doesn't help any.

OTOH, to require the working together and some compromise, I think institutional checks are legitimate. This does require both sides to play fair, and one side does not want to -- has not for years. But, the other side (and the people) have ways to stop that. And, how things turned out is not as bad as some suggest. As to the House, as Atrios notes, it is okay that there are differences, and one party strongly supports a measure, not letting the other water down its principles in the interest of "centrism" or whatever. Still, it is hard to believe that every single member of the party, especially given everything involved, opposed the measure in the House. No dissents?

Admirable on some level, I guess, but again, the rules sort of assumes more individual judgment than that. I will stick with the possibility of a filibuster, but sure, I understand why some would be dubious these days.