Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Senate's Filibuster Rules Are Like a Sports Game With Unlimited Time Outs

A lot of people are down on President Obama right now for packing his cabinet with Wall Street insiders who've stymied progress on the financial reforms needed to make sure the meltdown doesn't happen again.  I, for one, think all the too-big-to-fails should be broken up.  It's just too dangerous for there to even be such a thing, and Obama's lack of Rooseveltian fortitude in this area has been a real let-down.  Come on, Barak, be bold enough to welcome the hatred of your enemies as FDR did!

On climate change and clean energy (and other areas like health insurance reform), my sense is that while the Senate may be the main barrier to his success, President Obama has got to be more aggressive in pushing for solutions to the systemic problems that have been plaguing his agenda -- especially Senate Republicans' unprecedented abuse of the filibuster. 

I was thinking last night about how the filibuster can be likened to a time-out in a football or basketball game -- in that it essentially stops the game (or legislative process) at a critical moment when the inferior team (or Senate minority) sees something happening that they don't like.

Imagine sports teams had unlimited time outs, and every time something not to their liking was happening, the inferior team in a game could call a time out to prevent the better team from scoring.  Games would never get finished, let alone played.

That's essentially what's happening in the Senate, and it's got to stop.  The filibuster either needs to be changed to reduce the number of votes required to invoke cloture, or there need to be limits on the number of filibusters allowed per Congressional Session, as there are limits on time outs in sports games.

Whatever the right solution is, the system isn't working to allow our Federal government to even attempt to implement policy solutions with a realistic chance of solving our most urgent societal problems.  It's time to address this systemic barrier to progress via a Filibuster rules change in the Senate.

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