When Democratic Senators failed to stop Republicans from filibustering the DISCLOSE Act last Tuesday, it was an especially depressing example of the party's weakness. The act would have required corporations, unions and other entities giving more than $600 to a candidate, to openly state that they're funding ads (not necessarily fact-based) for their candidate or against the opponent. If DISCLOSE passes without being watered down, we'll get to watch CEOs/Chairs declare in their ads that they approve the contents, as candidates already have to do.
By making big donors go public, DISCLOSE would temper the Supreme Court's recent decision that these donors can spend as much as they want to support or oppose candidates. What's that over yonder? Looks like swiftboats to me.
Thursday was even more sucky, because the GOP filibustered to scuttle the President's bill to help small businesses recover -- this bill was backed by insurance and cell phone companies as well. And two GOP senators had supported a provision within the bill to set up a fund to loan low-interest money to community banks so they could in turn loan to businesses; the bill also provided some small business-related tax breaks.
Yet when Senators decided whether to stop the filibuster, every Republican opposed the motion and it failed. The Minority Leader had corralled his posse, and they all voted no.
Pols running for Senate promise to represent us. But when the majority (57 Dems and 2 Independents who caucus with them) tolerates the 41 member minority repeatedly thwarting legislation with the potential to help restore Americans' financial health, they are not serving their constituents well. It's time to kill the filibuster.
We all know the Dems' primary excuse -- "When we're the minority party again (optimists, we Dems), we'll need the filibuster option." But living by political calculations like this only increases the country's disgust with elected Democrats. Talk about contributing to one's own downfall...
Granted, the Senate is supposed to be more genteel than the House, and thus more likely to maintain chamber traditions. But what stands out from the last administration's Senate control is the gentility that permitted Dick Cheney to give Patrick Leahy a crisp, vulgar suggestion.
The case to end the filibuster has been made numerous times. Five years ago conservative columnist Marion Edwyn Harrison ESQ cited Democrats' own evidence -- including statements from Charles Schumer and Erwin Chermerinsky -- to justify returning the Senate to simple majority rule. And this past February, Yale Law Journal Articles Editor Aaron Zelinsky argued in the Huffington Post for the same thing.
The last time Republicans ran the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist threatened to stop the Democrats' filibuster in opposition to one of George Bush's judicial nominees by using the nuclear option. That threat and the Dems' threat to shut the Senate down spurred a deal that ended the fight.
Dems believed Republicans would carry out their threat, probably because they would have. Our guys haven't seriously threatened to go nuclear, probably because -- with several glorious exceptions -- that would take guts.
If Democrats stick to their decorous position, we may lose enough Senate seats to finally witness the death of the filibuster -- by the other side.
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