Grist finally got around to having its holiday party last night. Consequently, I am rather hungover and haggard, which is unfortunate, since the moment I arrived at my computer this morning I was besieged by bad news. Here’s an annotated list of awful things that have happened this week:
1. Filibuster reform collapses.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) came to an agreement [PDF] on the filibuster today. Joining hands in the spirit of bipartisan comity, they agreed to do nothing. It's pathetic, worse even than I expected, and I generally expect the worst from the Senate. Even the most egregious filibuster abuse -- filibustering the motion to proceed with a bill -- will remain in place. Reid will still need McConnell's permission to bring anything to the floor.
Why did Reid punk out? Because he supports the 60-vote supermajority threshold, as do many of his Democratic colleagues. In the thick air of the Senate they have bought the "world's most deliberative body" mythology wholesale, losing track of the distinction between deliberative and dysfunctional. They view Senate tradition as a fragile treasure and the clubby, insular atmosphere as an advantage. When the hero of filibuster reform, Sen. Jeff Merkley, called out Democratic reform opponents by name, Reid scolded him. They don't want to go on record as opposing reform. But they don't want to lose their individual leverage either.
And so the Senate will remain the only legislative body among advanced democracies (or U.S. states) to give the minority absolute veto power over legislation. It is so frightened of democracy it won't even allow itself to be ruled democratically. So nothing will pass, certainly nothing bold or effective, on climate or anything else. And those who speak most solemnly about Senate tradition will continue to render the institution a laughingstock.
2. The Washington Post humps for Keystone.