The filibuster. Why is it that it has continued to bedevil the Senate's majority party, even though you hardly see these croaky-throated old men staggering around the well of the Senate, reading The Last Of The Mohicans anymore? That was the issue taken up by Chris Matthews Monday night. Matthews -- who one imagines would spend his entire term filibustering if he was ever elected to the Senate -- was joined by former Senators Trent Lott and John Breaux to discuss this topic.
Matthews' main bone of contention: Why has everyone accepted the premise that a 60-vote supermajority is deemed the necessary means of enacting legislation? Why can't there be speechifying, and most importantly "cots." Lott pointed out that there's all sorts of ancient Parliamentary trickeries at the ready that can be used to drag out bills even before you get to the filibuster. Which is neat, but doesn't go to the issue.
"If you need sixty, you get nothing done," Matthews said. "When are we going to trust, and say, okay, now it's time to let the majority rule so we can get health care, so we can get energy, so we can get a better education system?" Breaux pointed out that the current state of play in the Senate has allowed the mere threat of a filibuster to sideline bills. "Make them show they won't vote for it, make them get on the floor," said Breaux.
Lott insisted that the GOP will not filibuster every issue. "Will the Republicans go to the mat and filibuster an education bill?" he asked.
None of that impressed Matthews, who, on top of suggesting that the constant threat of filibustering is ruining our democracy, zinged Lott on the way out the door with this exchange:
LOTT: If you don't have the delays, you have a stimulus bill that nobody read, nobody knew what was in it, raising spending, it's going to raise taxes, it's going to wind up cutting defense. This is good?
MATTHEWS: Well, it is better than what your crowd left us with. Thank you, Trent Lott, thank you, John Breaux. We have a Dow dropping down to 6000 based upon the economic policies of the past eight years. I wouldn't brag, with great respect, sir.