ARITHMETIC JUNE 24, 2013
Over the weekend, Jennifer Steinhauer reported an interesting development in The New York Times about the new math in our nation's capital: the failure of the farm bill to pass the House after 62 conservative Republicans voted against a bill supported by their own leadership (and supported by many Democrats until House Republicans larded up the Senate's bill with various liberal unpalatables, such as more than $20 billion in food stamp "savings").
The point of the article was to show how bad the chances for something contentious like immigration reform are if the House won't even pass something as unimportant as, you know, allocating money to feed hungry people. With even the farm bill put out to pasture (sorry), Steinhauer noted, all that seems passable are things like the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamps Act, which is apparently a thing.
And she revealed this:
The theory in the Senate is simple: If a bill can pass in that chamber with 70 or more votes, Democrats reason, then the House will be forced to take it up and pass their version of bills.
Actually this theory, as is admitted in the next paragraph, is invalid: Conservative Republican representatives gerrymandered into narrow districts filled with narrow minds are not even prompted to responsible action by that much support from the Senate. (In fairness, the farm bill garnered "only" 66 votes in the Senate.)
But let's assume for a second that that is true. We've known for years how both parties have abused the filibuster, altering it from an archaic, last-ditch, little-used parliamentary maneuver into an S.O.P. requirement that bills get a 60-vote "supermajority" in order to pass. But now there's an even higher threshold—70 votes! A super-duper-majority!
A reminder: Eliminating the filibuster requires 51 votes. Welcome to Washington.