by Bruce Webb
Sanders makes the case I have been thinking of making (bolding mine):
Bernie Sanders Demands Democrats Commit To Stopping Health Care Filibuster
One of the Senate’s most vocal progressives is demanding that the Democratic Party commit to voting against filibustering health care legislation now that, with the impending arrival of Al Franken, the party has 60 caucusing members.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), called on the White House and Democratic leadership in Congress to ensure that party members agree unanimously to support cloture on legislation that would revamp the nation’s health care system. Democratic senators on the fence, he added, could still oppose the bill. But at the very least they should be required to let the legislation come to an up-or-down vote.
“I think that with Al Franken coming on board, you have effectively 60 Democrats in the caucus, 58 and two Independents,” Sanders said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “I think the strategy should be to say, it doesn’t take 60 votes to pass a piece of legislation. It takes 60 votes to stop a filibuster. I think the strategy should be that every Democrat, no matter whether or not they ultimately end up voting for the final bill, is to say we are going to vote together to stop a Republican filibuster. And if somebody who votes for that ends up saying, ‘I’m not gonna vote for this bill, it’s too radical, blah, blah, blah, that’s fine.'”
“I think the idea of going to conservative Republicans, who are essentially representing the insurance companies and the drug companies, and watering down this bill substantially, rather than demanding we get 60 votes to stop the filibuster, I think that is a very wrong political strategy,” Sanders added.
There is nothing in the Constitution that suggests that ordinary legislation or amendments thereto should require a 60 vote super-majority to move to a vote. But the filibuster exists and the majority cannot deny the minority some opportunity to demand debate (not that the filibuster ever is actually used to honestly debate anything). Still enough is enough. The Senate has never had the Whipping system of say the British Parliament, indeed its tradition allows leading members to buck Leadership and the White House on final legislation. However extending that principle to the point that unless everyone capitulates to every demand of the most center-right member of the caucus every time is to make a mockery of the Constitution itself. Exactly when did we decide to turn total power over to Ben Nelson?
Time to play hardball. Nelson doesn’t have to be a good soldier every time, he can vote against every bill that violates his conscience or ideology or that goes against the interest of his state. But there have to be sanctions for going AWOL time after time and even more severe sanctions for giving Aid and Assistance to the Enemy. Currently Ben Nelson sits on four powerhouse committees: Agriculture, Appropriations, Armed Services, and Rules. First offense? Lose Rules. Second offense? Off of Appropriations. What’s his recourse? Becoming the permanent Mr. No as the junior member of the Republican caucus?
Look we are not looking for a blood oath here, just an agreement to let legislation go to an up or down vote. Time to get things which have majority support among the American people and the US Senate done.