When I was much younger, I liked to play card games with my Granny. I also liked to change the rules to my advantage as the game rolled along. For example, during a game of “Go Fish”:
Brad: “Got any nines?”
Granny: “No. Go Fish.”
Brad: “Got any sixes?”
Granny: “You already asked if I had any nines and I told you no. Now you have to reach into the pile and see if you can draw one.”
Brad: “Nah uh. You get to ask three times before you have to go fish.”
You get the point. What does any of this have to do with the Senate? Well, it all comes down to one word: rules. In my card games, I understood that changing the rules had the potential to change the outcome of the game. The same thing is true in the Senate, where rules like the filibuster stand as a major impediment to passing not only poor legislation, but almost any legislation at all. Now, my changing the rules mid-game is more accurately labeled cheating, and make no mistake about it, the accusations would fly fast and furious if the Senate were to change the rules when a bill with the magnitude of health care reform is under consideration. But in between games–at the start of a new session of Congress, say–changing the rules should be completely acceptable. After all, both parties will be equally constrained to operating in accordance with the changes.
And so, after health care reform has passed, the Senate needs to reform itself by doing away with the filibuster. No one elected official should be given the power to prevent a vote in the Senate, as is now the case. I am joined in thinking this by a large number of others–some of whom even have their own outlets in the media. I share with you their contributions to this issue now.
Norman Ornstein writes about Our Broken Senate in The American, and Ezra Klein really tees off on the subject here, along with interviews with Sen. Tom Harkin, Prof. Barbara Sinclair, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern. Of course, all of this just begins to scratch the surface. The bottom line: The filibuster needs to be laid atop a funeral pyre, set ablaze, and pushed out to sea.