Jonathan Chait

Don't Conservatives Hope To Govern?

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Mike Potemra at National Review argues that liberals should like the filibuster:

I address this question to Rachel Maddow, who just delivered a long and passionate address against the filibuster (I caught only the last five minutes of it): Three years from now, Palin is president, with J. D. Hayworth as Senate majority leader, and Michele Bachmann as Speaker of the House. (Of course it’s impossible – just like the election of Obama was, and the election of Scott Brown, and . . .) I imagine they, too Palin, Bachmann, Hayworth, Secretary of Defense Liz Cheney, Secretary of Education Glenn Beck, the whole team are going to want to pass some legislation. Would 51 Senate votes be OK for that, as far as you're concerned? Or will we agree, then, that major changes in national policy need more deliberation, more of a consensus, and not just the passions of a fleeting democratic moment?

Speaking for myself: Yes. If the American people have elected a government of Palins, Bachmanns and Hayworths, then they should have a chance to implement their program, given the multitude of veto points, backed up by Constitutional protections, already existing in the system. Would I enjoy watching that program enacted into law? No. But I think the program would fail, and it would be easy for Democrats to regain power and overturn it, also without having a supermajority hurdle. (Which is to say, I support reforming the Senate to allow majority rule, not letting Republicans pass bills with a majority and Democrats needing a supermajority.)

Indeed, I think it's Republicans who are being shortsighted here. They're really excited about Paul Ryan's plan to shrink Medicare's expected share of GDP from 14% to 4%. How do they expect to do all that good stuff if you need to control 60 Senate seats on top of the House of Representatives and the White House? Okay, maybe that's too ambitious. Just to be more modest, wouldn't they like the next Republican president to be able to appoint his own executive branch staff without having scores of them held up by the opposition for no good reason?

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