Monday, August 02, 2010

The world’s greatest deliberative body

“It’s time we started looking at some of these rules.” ~Senator McCaskill
The New Yorker has the best piece on our broken Senate that I've seen in years. This is one for the archives. Almost impossible to excerpt but here's just a bit:
The most pervasive authority over the institution is not the Constitution or the Bible but, rather, an impenetrable sixteen-hundred-page tome, by Floyd M. Riddick, called “Senate Procedure: Precedents and Practices,” which only the late Robert Byrd, of West Virginia, was known to have read in its entirety. The procedures are so abstruse that a parliamentarian must sit below the presiding officer and, essentially, tell him or her what to say.
And here's the closer:
The two lasting achievements of this Senate, financial regulation and health care, required a year and a half of legislative warfare that nearly destroyed the body. They depended on a set of circumstances—a large majority of Democrats, a charismatic President with an electoral mandate, and a national crisis—that will not last long or be repeated anytime soon. Two days after financial reform became law, Harry Reid announced that the Senate would not take up comprehensive energy-reform legislation for the rest of the year. And so climate change joined immigration, job creation, food safety, pilot training, veterans’ care, campaign finance, transportation security, labor law, mine safety, wildfire management, and scores of executive and judicial appointments on the list of matters that the world’s greatest deliberative body is incapable of addressing. Already, you can feel the Senate slipping back into stagnant waters.

Slipping back? They barely emerged from the swamp for a brief moment too long in coming. I don't think they're ever going to drain it unless they change the rules. Significantly.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]


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