THE BLOG
01/02/2013 11:21 am ET | Updated Mar 04, 2013

Alert to Senate Dems: When You Vote Filibuster Reform Tomorrow, Think 'Debt-Ceiling'

We had to destroy the city in order to save it -- alleged comment of U.S. Army Major during Vietnam War.

Tomorrow, January 3, the first day of the new Congress, is the only day the Senate can pass new rules on a simple majority vote. Hence, it is the only day that filibuster reform designed to do something about the system the Republicans have grossly abused for their political gain, to the nation's detriment.

As some of the Senate oldies try to preserve dysfunction, consider Republican threats on the debt-ceiling that is itself actually a canard. Ridiculous as it seems that they would embrace mutually-assured destruction, not just for a group they disdain like the 47 percent or the unemployed, but for the entire nation and the world economy, recent history has shown clearly that they have no compunction about it.

There is probably no piece of useless legislation that has been demagogued more than the periodic debt-ceiling votes. Senators have cast negative votes to show their constituents that they oppose debt, and have been reluctant to cast positive votes because they know their opponents in the next election can run ads, "and he voted to raise the debt," against them in the next election. Then-Senator Obama himself cast a negative symbolic vote.

But, no one who voted "Nay" in the past did so when there was any question that the debt-ceiling would be raised to accommodate appropriations and obligations that the country had already incurred, so that the full faith and credit of the United States was not at risk. Indeed, it would violate the 14th Amendment to the Constitution not to pay our already-incurred obligations.

So, when the Democrats' caucus takes up filibuster reform tomorrow, it should consider the implications for the U.S. and world economy of a faction, in the Senate and out, who delight in demagoguery, and believe that they have to destroy the country to save it.

There is a very good strategy to avoid being held-hostage by debt-ceiling demagogues. One part of that strategy includes the Senate, early in the new year, passing an extension of the "McConnell amendment," granting the president authority to raise the debt-ceiling subject to rejection by a 2/3 vote in both Houses, and letting this "clean debt-ceiling extension" bill go to the House.

The bill can be scrubbed of most of its demagogue potential by including language such as, "but only for debts and obligations already-approved by Congress."

That strategy cannot be implemented if the filibuster is not substantially reformed, at least along the lines of the Merkely-Bennett-Udall proposal.