Thursday, February 25, 2010

Filibusters, continued

Harkin calls for End to Filibuster

Filibuster the Vrijbuiter?

"I think, if anything, this health care debate is showing the dangers of unlimited filibuster," Harkin told reporters on Thursday. "I think there's a reason for slowing things down ... and getting the public aware of what's happening and maybe even to change public sentiment, but not to just absolutely stop something."

The plan he announced with Lieberman 14 years ago would have slowly scaled down the cloture threshold for legislation that had been filibustered. The first vote would require 60. If it failed to reach 60, debate would continue until a new vote, which would require 57, and so on until a simple majority could determine whether the measure lived or died.

"You could hold something up for maybe a month, but then, finally you'd come down to 51 votes and a majority would be able to pass," Harkin said. "I may revive that. I pushed it very hard at one time and then things kind of got a little better."

Changing the Senate rules--particularly the filibuster--would be a Herculean feat. But simply the fact that it's being discussed openly by high-ranking Senators indicates just how frustrated some of them are with the level of obstruction they face. """

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Harkin's plan sounds reasonable, though it's not likely to appeal to the whores of Big Oil and defense GOP good ol' goys in the Senate or Lieberdems and Pelosicrats for that matter. They depend on procedural glitches--and filibusters are really no more than House-of-Lords style procedural hijacking and obstruction (the word filibuster comes from the Dutch vrijbuiter, from vrijbuit, free-plunder. Filibustero/flibustier used in spanish and french for "pirate")-- to keep the Casino-Senate running.

With respect to the historical Shutterbug, Congress allowed informal filibusters at times but eliminated them in 1842, when a time limit for debate was established. The Senate did not use them, until 1850 or so. The word does not appear in the Federalist papers (there were rules for "time of sessions" in Congress, but not really hammered out). Southern senators managed to get a filibuster rule in the Senate rules prior to the Civil War, most likely in hopes of preserving ...slavery. Cloture, a supposed anti-filibuster rule came about under Woodrow Wilson, but rarely works. Most progressive policies would pass via a simple majority vote, but cannot make the cloture 2/3s rule, and the Demos generally don't have the spine to take it to a filibuste
r stage.

A few political types have suggested that Rawlsian concepts might break the impasse of the filibuster. Obviously whatever party has the majority would probably OPPOSE the filibuster. Currently most demos and progressives favor ending the filibuster. A few years ago, the GOP did. At present the GOP desperately needs the Filibuster (especially with a few Demopublicans like Scotty Brown onboard). Merely obstructing a proposed policy or law by endless debate or demagoguery does not seem reasonable, though of course if the majority were attempting to implement some injust policy--say eliminating taxation--then a filibuster might be the right choice. So it's only an instrumental good. Rawlsian ideas could possibly be of some assistance were some progs able to get his ideas on the floor of Senate; the Theory of Justice does not seem so alien to Federalism of a sort (more John Jay, than Hamilton or Madison, perhaps)--progressive Federalism, for those who enjoy "isms."

Rawls demands that principles of justice be chosen behind a “veil of ignorance” (like Lady Justice's blindfold itself). That is, as Stephanopoulos says, "people should select ethical rules as if they didn’t know how wealthy they would be, what talents they might have, or what gender, race, or religion they would belong to. Only such policies would be untainted by self-interest and, therefore, fair."

A Rawlsian approach, or something like it, would also provide a justification for govt. sponsored health-care (as some political philosophers have argued), and for narrowing the gap between haves and have nots. Of course, Thanatos remains an issue: many humans, including politicians, celebrity-aesthetes, or judges, prefer dystopia, and prefer keeping a great disparity between rich and not-rich, and with retaining whatever sort of pseudo-aristocratic powers they can get away with, so any sort of progressive concerns (who da phuck is that?) are BS. So, you don't want Rawls-like progressives, prepare for Hugo Chavezes.

(also see Here and Here)

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