The US Senate is Antiquated and Undemocratic--And the Fillibuster Makes It Worse

The filibuster makes it nearly impossible to get anything done in this country:

Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked the No.1 item on the president's congressional "to-do-list," refusing to allow a vote on a bill that would give tax breaks for companies that "insource" jobs to the U.S. from overseas while eliminating tax deductions for companies that move jobs abroad.

In voting against the bill, Republicans raised both substantive and procedural problems with the measure.

The bill fell four votes short of the 60 needed to bring it to debate, with 42 voting against it. Four GOP senators -- Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Dean Heller of Nevada -- voted in favor of the bill.

With job creation the top issue this campaign season, and outsourcing being blamed as a big contributor to the high unemployment rate, Democrats saw the bill as an election-year winner. Sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, who is running for reelection, the bill made it to the top of the "to-do list" for Congress President Barack Obama unveiled earlier this year.

The Bring Jobs Home Act would provide a 20% tax break for the costs of moving jobs back to the United States and would rescind business expense deductions available to companies that are associated with the cost of moving operations overseas.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, had warned Democrats before the vote that his party would want to amend the bill -- possibly with hot-button issues like repealing the health care reform law or extending the Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, responded that those amendments were not germane to the bill and he would not allow votes on them.

The Senate is an antiquated, undemocratic and deeply conservative institution even without the filibuster, weighted dramatically toward small states, which are mostly rural and Republican. It's nothing short of ridiculous that North Dakota gets the same two votes as California or New York.

Throw in a requirement to get 60 votes to pass any bills, and the hurdles to any sort of legislative become nearly impassable.

And no, forcing the filibusterers to read the phonebook from the floor won't accomplish anything. Remember: these are people whose entire goal is to prevent anything from getting done to help the economy, and to further besmirch the reputation of Congress and government in general. They don't care if the entire nation's government is tied up in reading recipes for a month. With 45 committed plutocrats, they can easily just take turns.

Yes, getting rid of the filibuster is a scary proposition. With the possibility of a Romney presidency combined with the likelihood of a GOP Senate takeover and a slight GOP hold on the House, it's quite possible that the Ryan budget passes absent a filibuster. But without the ability to pass significant reforms, it's all moving deck chairs around the Titanic anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And in this case, gaining nothing is tantamount to disaster.

Hullabaloo / By David Atkins

Posted at July 20, 2012, 5:53am

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