You can only blame so much on Ted Cruz.
Doubtless he’s the most patronizing, smarmy, self-promoter ever to get elected to the U.S. Senate, an institution rife with competition for that dubious distinction. But at the end of the day, he’s just one guy. Even if you add in Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, that still only makes three — out of 100.
Call me crazy but didn’t we just have an election? It was a big election about big issues and it cost a fortune — in fact, more money than has ever been spent on any election in the history of the United States. The point of all that money, and the debates, and all those 30-second spots, was to settle a bunch of nagging national questions about who we are, what we want, and how we should pay for it.
You may recall that the guy who was elected president won by five million votes — not exactly a squeaker. His electoral vote victory margin was even more impressive: 332 to 206. The Senate Democratic Caucus controls 55 percent of the seats in the Senate — a solid majority. The Democrats also gained seats in the House, giving the president firm control of two-thirds of America’s lawmaking apparatus to advance what has become America’s lawmaking agenda.
Speaking of that agenda, is anybody unclear about it? By now, all of us can practically recite the president’s litany of campaign pledges from memory: fair taxes for a balanced budget; health care and higher education for all; stronger consumer protection; and an end to the wars in the Middle East. Everyone, that is, except for the 53 Democratic senators elected to implement them.
Instead, their first official act was to (essentially) leave the filibuster rule intact — which amounts to the political equivalent of knowingly placing a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists. As a direct result of that choice, voters since have had to sit by helplessly and watch everything from routine cabinet and judicial appointments to sensible gun safety legislation get incinerated in a mushroom cloud of the Democratic Party’s own making. I mean really, is preserving the filibuster more important than making even a little progress?
The last time the filibuster was used for a good cause was in 1939 — in Hollywood. In Frank Capra’s Academy Award-winning “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” Jimmy Stewart plays Jefferson Smith, a noble, idealistic, independent — and, yes, fictional — senator forced to use the filibuster to focus public attention on the secret dirty dealings of some big money bad guys in his district.
Today, in the real world, the big money bad guys are firmly in charge. And they have only one goal in mind — preserve the worst of the status quo at all costs.
Lose the election? Just use the filibuster to prevent the winner from picking a cabinet, or filling empty seats in the court system. Don’t have a 51-vote majority? Just use the filibuster to move the goalposts to require 60 votes in order to pass anything at anytime. The message to voters? Elections don’t matter. Your vote doesn’t count.
At long last the president has asserted his firm belief that it doesn’t have to be this way. With his latest three nominations to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, he has challenged the Senate’s Democratic majority to fight for majority rule.
And by fight, I mean stand up on the floor and use the filibuster to change the filibuster. Bring that shameful institution to a screeching halt. Stop everything. Force a national conversation on why, in the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” a simple majority isn’t enough to get anything done?
If sensible, popular, national legislation can’t muster 51 votes in the U.S. Senate, I can live with that. I wouldn’t be happy about it. But I’d accept it. What’s unacceptable is when a bill earns a majority of votes and still doesn’t pass. Any senator who can live with that outcome doesn’t deserve to be there.