What’s the biggest barrier to progress in American politics? Ask a dozen people at random and you’ll hear everything from “bad messaging” to “poor grassroots organization” to “corruption.” What you probably won’t hear much about is the procedural rules of the U.S. Senate. And yet it is Senate dysfunction, more than anything else, that has blocked or weakened the agenda Obama and the Democrats were elected to enact. The ignominious demise of the climate bill is just the latest example.
It’s time to start talking about Senate reform. The rules are being abused and American democracy is suffering.
I organized a panel on the subject at Netroots Nation this year (where talk of Senate reform was very much in the air). Afterwards, I asked each of the panelists to write a short essay summarizing their comments at the event. They are collected here:
- Mimi Marziani, constitutional scholar at the Brennan Center for Justice: “There is no constitutional right to filibuster“
- David Waldman, Congress watcher at Daily Kos: “The filibuster is what enables the ‘secret hold’ in the Senate“
- Matthew Yglesias, blogger for the Center for American Progress: “The filibuster undermines democratic accountability“
- Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.): “A plan to change the Senate’s rules and make the Senate work again“
Here’s a video of the panel, should you wish to watch the whole thing:
Some of my previous posts on the filibuster:
- Netroots Nation frustration and the impediments to progressive change
- The real reason the climate bill is going to suck
- How 7.4% of Americans can block humanity’s efforts to save itself
- One reason Congress might consider scrapping the filibuster
- Is Bill McKibben right to be angry with Obama?
- Time to bust the filibuster
- Why did the climate bill fail?
Here’s a couple from back in 2007, the last round of the climate fight:
- Sen. John Kerry defends Dem decision not to force a filibuster on the energy bill
- Dems can’t overcome filibuster threats to get decent legislation—so what should they do?
And finally, here’s a good recent one from Alan Durning: Winning on climate may require reforming the U.S. Senate
More to come.
— David Roberts