Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is going to be the big movie explosion of the year, and reviewers are going to think twice and think sourly before they’ll want to put it down for the clumsy and irritating thing it is. It is a mixture of tough, factual patter about congressional cloakrooms and pressure groups, and a naïve but shameless hooraw for the American relic—Parson Weems at a flag-raising. It seems just the time for it, just the time of excitement when a barker in good voice could mount the tub, point toward the flag, say ubbuh-ubbah-ubbah and a pluribus union?
When Congress convened earlier this month, senators Merkley, Udall, and Harkin introduced a package of proposals to reform Senate rules—including, most notably, the filibuster. But the proposal failed to gain traction in the Senate, and, on Thursday, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell announced a deal that confirmed what reformers feared: the filibuster as we know it will remain. The big mystery for me in all this is why the reformers were so insistent in their package of proposals on forcing “live,” or “talking,” filibusters.
This is a shockingly bad report from Wall Street Journal news reporter Corey Boles: If a few of Senate Democrats had their way, Jimmy Stewart’s character in the classic film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” would have had a harder time blocking a Senate vote. In the 1939 movie, a Senate freshman spent all night talking in a classic filibuster, the decades-old right of any lawmaker to block legislation on the Senate floor. But a group of Democrats believes Republicans have abused the practice.
In order to prevent the Senate's forty-one Republicans from blocking a vote on health care reform, Democrats may try to pass some elements of reform through the budget reconciliation process. But just how easy would that be? In particular, even with reconciliation, could a minority of Senators still find ways to obstruct a vote--or at least delay one? TNR put the question to Treatment contributor Jeff Davis, who publishes and edits Transportation Weekly and who happens to be an expert on the legislative process.
Bill Clinton was being treated to the good side of Newt Gingrich. When congressional leaders gathered at the White House in July for a dinner devoted to foreign affairs, the Speaker was, recalls a top Clinton official, like Wellington opining on world affairs. Gingrich lamented those Republicans who would slash contributions to the U.N.