Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Political Theatre? It must be David Mamet...

DATELINE: U.S. Senate Floor

Democrats are attempting to pass an amendment to bring the troops home from Iraq. Republicans oppose. Democrats control the Senate. What's a minority party to do?

FILIBUSTER! Yes, that's right: it's time for C-SPAN to become high art yet again, as senators talk about whatever they feel or read the phone book to prevent losing the role of recognized speaker, thus preventing any further lawmaking.

It's the parliamentary procedure version of using three seat belts to tie yourself into your mother's car so she can't make you go to school ... only you're actually the teacher.

Usually the filibuster gets threatened, the other side acknowledges that it doesn't have the 60 votes to interrupt, and everyone grudgingly moves on. Not this time. This is going to be a serious filibuster. How serious?

It's super-sized.

Controlling Democrats have indicated that the Senate will be meeting for an "expanded session" today, meaning debate will continue into Wednesday morning. Something like 30 hours of debate. They're going to set up cots for people to sleep on! Basically, if your opponent is going to filibuster, then you make him pay for it.

You might be saying to yourself, "Filibuster! Hmmm, wasn't there some big news about a filibuster a few years ago?" And you'd be right. During the Supreme Court nominees of 2005, when Democrats used filibustering for votes on what they perceived as unacceptable candidates, the Republicans threatened the so-called "nuclear option" (Wikipedia), which decreases the votes required to end a filibuster to 50. This doesn't sound like much, but it then establishes 50 votes as precedent, making all minority filibusters effectively impossible. The crisis in 2005 was averted and the "nuclear" choice never used.

So, really, the Majority Republicans of 2005 are to blame for ... the Minority Republicans of 2007 being able to filibuster this current appointment. If the Republicans of 2005 had used the nuclear option, the current filibuster on Iraq would not be possible. It's a good thing they didn't actually prevent the thing they were angry about then OR they wouldn't be able to currently do the thing they used to be angry about AND they wouldn't be able to do it back at the people who were doing the angry thing earlier. Say what? Do you think they're secretly arguing about which decision was more important?

I guess you can't posses an entire political cake, while also being able to eat it. In other words, it's a good thing they didn't shoot that leg in 2005 because now they need it to stand on.

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