The Senate filibuster fight gins up – hypocrites to the left of us, hypocrites to the right … (Update)
Another example of why you can’t ever take anything a politician says at face value or believe them when they say they stand on ‘principle’.
For instance, consider the looming Senate fight over the filibuster.
Once a cause championed by a few Democratic senators, changing the filibuster has become a top priority for Senate Democrats who’ve repeatedly complained about Republicans blocking legislation from even being debated on the Senate floor. Reid noted on Monday that in his nearly six years as majority leader, he has faced 386 Republican-led filibusters in the chamber.
“We can’t continue like this,” a visibly frustrated Reid Monday said in a response to McConnell.
Of course the “visibly frustrated” Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Harry Reid, was one of those huge champions of the filibuster when he was a minority leader and then the new Majority Leader because he’d used it many times in his long political career:
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV):“As majority leader, I intend to run the Senate with respect for the rules and for the minority rights the rules protect. The Senate was not established to be efficient. Sometimes the rules get in the way of efficiency. The Senate was established to make sure that minorities are protected. Majorities can always protect themselves, but minorities cannot. That is what the Senate is all about.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.11591, 12/8/06)
REID: “For more than 200 years, the rules of the Senate have protected the American people, and rightfully so. The need to muster 60 votes in order to terminate Senate debate naturally frustrates the majority and oftentimes the minority. I am sure it will frustrate me when I assume the office of majority leader in a few weeks. But I recognize this requirement is a tool that serves the long-term interest of the Senate and the American people and our country.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.11591, 12/8/06)
REID: “I say on this floor that I love so much that I believe in the Golden Rule. I am going to treat my Republican colleagues the way that I expect to be treated. There is no ‘I’ve got you,’ no get even. I am going to do everything I can to preserve the traditions and rules of this institution that I love.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.11591, 12/8/06)
REID:“…one of the most sacred rules of the Senate – the filibuster… It is a unique privilege that serves to aid small states from being trampled by the desires of larger states. Indeed, I view the use of the filibuster as a shield, rather than a sword. Invoked to protect rights, not to suppress them.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.434, 1/5/95)
Yeah, well that was then and this is now. The “world has changed” as Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss said this week as he sought to duck out on his pledge of years past not to vote on raising taxes.
You have to love the Reid line about the Senate not being established to be efficient – see the budget. Going on 4 years without one. But you see, getting a budget passed would require Reid and the Democrats to compromise with the Republicans in order to achieve that 60 vote margin and, well, he’s just not willing to accomodate the minority despite his stirring words to the contrary about protecting the rights of the Senate minority, words, by the way, he’s likely to dismiss now.
And, as you hear the fight gin up, don’t forget the past words of other Democrats who will now call the GOP minority obstructionists and tell us all the filibuster is bad and has no place in the Senate. For instance, if we hear the President opining, it’s alway nice to remember his words on the subject for the brief period he was a Senator and take his words, on both sides of the issue, with a grain of salt:
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): “The American people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone in this Chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster, if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting, the bitterness, and the gridlock will only get worse.” (Sen. Obama, Congressional Record, S.3512, 4/13/05)
OBAMA: “[T]he American people sent us here to be their voice… What they do not expect is for one party, be it Republican or Democrat, to change the rules in the middle of the game so they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet.” (Sen. Obama, Congressional Record, S.3512, 4/13/05)
And, of course, that’s precisely what the Democrats and Obama want the Senate GOP to do – sit down and be quiet.
On any subject, you know little Chucky Schumer has an opinion:
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) On Any Threat To The Filibuster: “The basic makeup of our Senate is at stake. The checks and balances that Americans prize are at stake. The idea of bipartisanship, where you have to come together and can’t just ram everything through because you have a narrow majority, is at stake. The very things we treasure and love about this grand republic are at stake.” (Sen. Schumer, Congressional Record, S.4801, 5/10/05)
SCHUMER: “We are on the precipice of a crisis, a constitutional crisis. The checks and balances which have been at the core of this republic are about to be evaporated by the nuclear option. The checks and balances which say that if you get 51% of the vote you don’t get your way 100% of the time. It is amazing it’s almost a temper tantrum… They want their way every single time, and they will change the rules, break the rules, misread the Constitution so they will get their way.” (Sen. Schumer, Congressional Record, S.5208, 5/16/05)
Yes, it was a “Constitutional crisis” in ’05. Now? Not so much. Speaking of temper tantrums, funny how one’s words can come back to haunt them, not that they care.
Finally, we have dandy Dick Durbin who also thinks it is time to change the filibuster rules, although in ’05, he had a completely different take on the subject:
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): “Those who would attack and destroy the institution of the filibuster are attacking the very force within the Senate that creates compromise and bipartisanship.” (Sen. Durbin, Congressional Record, S.3763, 4/15/05)
DURBIN: The filibuster is “[one] of the most treasured and cherished traditions of the United States Senate.” “Many of us in the Senate feel that this agreement tonight means that some of the most treasured and cherished traditions of the United States Senate will be preserved, will not be attacked and will not be destroyed.” (Sen. Durbin, “Statement Of Sen. Dick Durbin Regarding The Agreement On Judicial Nominations In The Senate,” Press Release, 5/23/05)
It’s not so treasured any more, is it? At least not by Senate Democrats who were so enamored with it in ’05.
The point of course is obvious. Don’t ever believe anything any politician of either side says on any subject – ever. They’ll bail on it in a New York minute if they see political advantage in doing so. Pledges and “traditions” mean nothing to them.
If faith in government is built on trust, and trust is built on political leaders promising to do things and then keeping their word, trust in this government died quite a while ago.
And that’s sort of the crux of the problem isn’t it? We are represented by an amoral political class who doesn’t hold their word to mean anything and reserve the right to change their “principles” on the fly in an attempt to gain temporary political advantage.
We’re served by the worst political class I can remember.
The problem is we can’t blame them – we elected them, and, like Harry Reid and Saxby Chambliss, we’ve kept them in office for decades.
Unfortunately, when you don’t pay attention and you just tune in when it is convenient for you, you get exactly what you deserve in DC. This is just another in a long line of examples of that truth.
UPDATE: Apparently the WSJ and I are on the same wave-length today:
One of the more amazing post-election spectacles is the media celebration of Republicans who say they’re willing to repudiate their pledge against raising taxes. So the same folks who like to denounce politicians because they can’t be trusted are now praising politicians who openly admit they can’t be trusted.
If Republicans in Congress want to repudiate the pledge, they are free to do so at any time. They could even quote Edmund Burke’s line that a democratic representative owes his electors his best judgment, not a slavish fealty to majority opinion. But that would mean saying they didn’t mean it when they signed the pledge. So they are now busy pretending that Mr. Norquist is a modern Merlin who conned them into signing the pledge and must be eliminated before they can do the “right thing” and raise taxes.
Republican voters know that elections have consequences and that Mitt Romney’s defeat means there will be policy defeats too. But they will give the House and Senate GOP credit if it fights for its principles and drives a hard bargain. The voters are also smart enough to know that Republicans who focus on Mr. Norquist are part of the problem.
But apparently, for some, it’s too much to ask our politicians to stand by their word. Apparently, principles are only important when these people say they’re important. At other times, they’re very malleable or can be thrown to the side and rationalized away. And in this case, the rationalization apparently says that political necessity now requires that a crumb be thrown to “public opinion”.
With other people’s money, of course.