THE BLOG
09/17/2014 09:05 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2014

How an 'Independent Caucus' Could Form in the Senate and End Gridlock

Win McNamee via Getty Images

If Republicans win control of the Senate, there will be the gridlock -- only much worse. It will be so bad that the American people will look back on this current Congress as "productive". How do we know? They have already told their billionaire owners that they intend to do exactly that.

If Democrats hold on to the Senate, Republicans will obstruct as before. Bad, but not as bad as if Republicans win.

Suppose, however, that independents actually control the balance of power. If they act together, they can break the gridlock.

If Greg Orman (KS-Independent) wins, there will be perhaps four Independents in the Senate: Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Angus King (I-ME) and Orman.

True, Sanders leans more progressive than most Democrats, and Murkowski is really a dyed-in-the-wool Republican forced to run as an Independent because Joe Miller, a Palin loonjob, beat her in the Republican primary, but both have expressed frustration with obstruction. If the four senators elected as independents get together in their own caucus, they could exercise control over the Senate.

Let us assume, for example, that neither Democrats, who need 50 votes to enlist the Vice-President as a tie-breaker,, or Republicans, who need 51 votes to control the Senate, reach their thresholds for control.

Perhaps, the question ought not to be whether the four independents vote for Harry Reid (D-NV) or John Cornyn (R/TP-TX) (assuming a McConnell loss in KY, or McConnell if he wins) as majority leader.

Instead, the Independent Caucus might withhold their votes from both parties and decide to operate as a caucus itself. As a first act, it can determine that each party can nominate a person to chair a committee, and that they will give the Republicans and Democrats approximately an equal number of chairs. How do they do that? They vote as a block along with one party or the other for the designated chairs. Depending on which party actually has more votes, the committee memberships can be one vote more for that party than the other.

These "chair" candidates can be interviewed and vetted, and held accountable for their behavior. One significant deviation from his or her promises (that would be publicly disclosed), and the chair can be replaced by voting him or her out of the position, and installing a candidate from the other party. Moreover, if, say, a Democrat is proposed as chair, and the Independent Caucus does not approve, it can ask the party for another candidate for that chair, or it will award that chair to a Republican.

The Independent Caucus can agree that any party that mounts a filibuster, or any member of a party engages in other obstructive behavior, that party will lose a chair seat for each filibuster or obstructive event. That would effectively end obstruction for two years.

Each of the Independents should serve as Majority Leader for six months, on a rotating basis.

Nor would Sanders or Murkowski "risk" losing seniority in their current parties. After all, each could argue to their own sides that, had they not joined the independent caucus, the other side would have had control.

The Independent Caucus can also influence the House, although not nearly as powerfully. It can set as a rule that any bill that comes out of the Senate with at least 60 votes, but that does not receive an up-or-down vote in the House, automatically results in a loss of one the chairs the Republicans have (assuming the Republicans win the House; if Democrats win the House, the same rule would apply).

If the Independent Caucus performs well, more candidates may appear in 2016 elections running as independents to join that caucus. Or, current members could abandon party discipline and decide to cast their lots with the Independent Caucus, so long as they adhere to its basic formula.

The Independent Caucus will be Mommy and Daddy arriving in Washington D.C. Their 96 children will have to behave, or they will be sent to their rooms.