One Reason Why Reconciliation is Much Ado About Nothing

The plan to use the reconciliation process in the Senate to pass fixes to the Health Insurance Reform law has conservative’s undies in a knot. One of the claims is that reconciliation undermines protection of the minority opinion. This is patently ridiculous, as well explained by my BlogTalkRadio show co-host Sandi Behrns. Now that every two-bit ignoramus has suddenly become a Constitutional expert, some education is needed. Her piece, reprinted with permission appears below. Well done Sandi.

Alright, I’ve had it. The problem with these here intertubes is that any ole ill-informed oaf with an opinion can publish. That in and of itself wouldn’t be such a problem if there weren’t so many other ill-informed oafs chomping at the bit to believe it, forward it, copy it on their own blogs, re-tweet it on Twitter, post it to Facebook, or toss it into the maelstrom of right-wing forums. The collective effort pushes the stupid and degrades the quality of political debate in this country. An alarming amount of the time, you can’t debate someone with an opposing viewpoint without first educating them. Drives me nuts!

So what’s got me so frustrated this time? A profound misunderstanding of the Constitution and what it says about the rules and nature of the House and Senate. For some time now, there has been discussion of the filibuster, both in terms of efforts to reform it and efforts, like reconciliation, to avoid it.  A commonly held misconception these days is that the filibuster is delineated in the Constitution. (Why do I have to say this?) Not true.  What the Constitution simply says is that the Senate and the House are to write their own rules. The Senate rules held the potential for a filibuster since 1806 (although it was theoretical) and the first filibuster occurred in 1837. Still, it was an exceedingly rare occurrence until the 1970’s. As we all are now acutely aware, its use has dramatically spiked since the GOP lost control of the Senate in 2006, accelerating even more since President Obama took office. I believe that bit of information as mostly been disseminated. Although I am certain there are some that still believe the filibuster is in the Constitution, I’ll leave that point alone.

More insidious, and more difficult to effectively educate against is a belief that the Senate was not intended to hold votes on a majority rule basis. (An example can be seen here.)  “What?!”, you say. Bear with me and I will attempt to explain the thinking. It goes something like this:

The House was set up to be directly representative of the people, so majority rule votes are the law in the House. The Senate, however, was intended to be a check on the power of the majority (to protect against the tyranny of majority factions.) Therefore, the Senate was never intended to be held to majority rule votes of 50% plus one. This is why the filibuster (now that the GOP needs it) is sacrosanct.

Darn it! They were so close to the truth. Too bad they fail to grasp the obvious. The Senate is not majority rule, but not because it does or should require a supermajority. Rather, it is implicit in the very nature of the Senate itself. A little elementary civics: unlike the House, where representatives are determined by population, the Senate allows for two Senators per state, regardless of population. The result of this is the over-representation of smaller states. For instance, Wyoming, with a population of just over 544,ooo people, has two Senators, while California, where a single city has a population over 18 times that size, has the same allotment.

The Senate then, by its very composition, laid out in the Constitution, is not democratic. This satisfies the founders’ desire to put some limit on the over-rule of minority rights by majority factions. Within the Senate itself, any vote is inherently a check on the majority rule of the directly representative House. When California’s 37 million constituents get the same vote as Wyoming’s 544,000, it is clear that the majority is not ruling. There is no need for a filibuster to protect that discrepancy. The fact that the Senate rules allow for a filibuster is fine, but the rules also allow for reconciliation. Both are within the legal, constitutional framework of the Senate.

Everyone in the US that has made it through sixth grade should know this. So what to make of the people pushing this falsehood? Why are they misinterpreting the Constitution? Why are they referencing Madison’s Federalist papers when they clearly don’t understand them, either? There are three possibilities:

  1. They are intellectually challenged and simply cannot grasp this concept.
  2. They are willfully choosing to misrepresent the language of the Constitution and the founders’ writings to suit their viewpoint.
  3. They have been intentionally misinformed by others guilty of number 2.

I will leave it to you to determine the answer for any offenders you encounter.

Reprinted from The Cassandra Files.

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance

35 thoughts on “One Reason Why Reconciliation is Much Ado About Nothing

  1. R….

    We had an interesting development today – as the Parliamentarian did manage to find minor problems so the bill must be amended slightly and go back to the house.

    Now that it is going back to the house, of course, it isn’t necessary to restrict amendments anymore. That means a Public Option amendment could indeed be added if dems could whip up 51 votes for it in the senate. The house seemingly does have the votes to pass a public option.

    Wouldn’t that be ironic – we end up with a public option because the GOP opened the door for it with their stalling tactics.

    — hp

  2. “Now that every two-bit ignoramus has suddenly become a Constitutional expert…”

    …and then he goes on to post a huge rant by a two-bit ignoramus that has suddenly become a Constitutional law expert.

  3. HP you gots to lay off the HuffPo overdoses.the HCR passed by 7 votes without the public option. Do you seriously think some of those 212 voted because it DIDN’T include the PO?
    I will say this though since I don’t think it is worth a post of its own per se.
    Kudos to the parlimentarian for doing good work and a h/t to VP for letting the ruling stand, and he did it without an f bomb too!

  4. Alfie said….

    HP you gots to lay off the HuffPo overdoses.the HCR passed by 7 votes without the public option. Do you seriously think some of those 212 voted because it DIDN’T include the PO?

    I wouldn’t be so sure. Remember that the original house bill did contain a public option – so at one time we know that the house did support such an option. Also, remember that some of the Dem “no” votes last Sunday were from progressives – Kucinich changed his vote – but some progressives did not. Finally, remember that some of the Dem “no” votes were actually “yes” votes “released” by Pelosi because they faced particularly difficult re-election campaigns in November.

    It is moot anyway – the Senate just passed the reconciliation bill without adding the public option. It goes straight back to the house, where it is expected to pass easily.

    — hp

  5. Also, remember that some of the Dem “no” votes last Sunday were from progressives Not to be a jerk or anything but I can’t see out of the 34 (D) anyone in the CPC.

  6. Alfie said: Not to be a jerk or anything but I can’t see out of the 34 (D) anyone in the CPC.

    I am going from memory here – but I do know that there were at least a couple of people who voted against the bill because it didn’t go far enough. There was considerable angst about them in Democratic chat rooms and twitter channels. I don’t know if they were members of the progressive caucus, but there was certainly the feeling that they were holding out based on liberal, not conservative, principles.

    I will need to look for names.

    This just in as I write this – the house has already voted to approve the Senate’s amended reconciliation bill. It now goes to Obama. So much for that big resistance push – it managed to delay things by a whopping 4 days.

    It does mean that this thread is already out of date 😉

    — hp

  7. Funny that when the article nails it (which I can say with all due modesty since I didn’t write it), all we get are ad hominem attacks. I was hoping Sandi could have some good debate here but she’s got no one to debate with.

  8. Funny that when the article nails it (which I can say with all due modesty since I didn’t write it), all we get are ad hominem attacks.

    I’m sorry, R. My high school civics course wasn’t the best, but when it was done, even the droolers knew that the Federalist Papers had been authored by John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. But I’m supposed to be educated by someone who apparently doesn’t understand this simple fact?

    Now I haven’t heard this issue being a major topic of discussion anywhere but in Sandi’s World, but if she were to illuminate which Federalist Papers she is referring to, It might be more conducive to a discussion, if that is what you or she really want.

  9. “I was hoping Sandi could have some good debate here but she’s got no one to debate with.”

    That’s because she built a straw man to debate with.

  10. I apologize that I did not say “Madison’s Federalist 10” but the example I linked to specifically referenced this particular Federalist paper. If you care to argue something more substantive, I’ll check back later.

  11. It would help if you began with some substance that didn’t require us to defend the idiot you linked to.

    Hotspur is correct. You fished out a ridiculous argument off the Interweb, and then tore it down as if everyone against ObamaCare, and the procedures used to pass it, thinks like your straw man does.

    Also, your lesson on the purpose of the senate is sadly incomplete as applied to history. The senate was never intended to represent the people of a state. It was created to represent the government of a state. Which is why the constitution, until amended, calls for senators to be chosen by state legislatures (Art. 1, Sec. 3, Cl. 1).

    And since you are so familiar with Fed. #10, you should be aware how important Madison felt that point was.

    “By enlarging too much the number of electors, you render the representative too little acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests; as by reducing it too much, you render him unduly attached to these, and too little fit to comprehend and pursue great national objects. The federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures.”

    As supported by Madison, the electorate of the senate is currently too large, making it so that senators are not well enough in tune with what the electorate it represents wants and doesn’t want.

    That’s why we have senators voting for a bill that umpteen state legislatures want to fight, and many it represents are against.

    But as your Dear Leader said, that’s what elections are for.

    See you in November.

    (I will be away for the next several days, so don’t think my lack of response to your eventual reply is a dodge.)

  12. Also, my response is not intended to be an argument against reconciliation (so no straw man on my part), but to fill in the gaps in this so-called civics lesson Rutherford thought you were going to come here and give us ignorant right-wing morons.

  13. Diplomacy: Did the president of the United State walk out on the premier of Israel, leaving him to wait while he had dinner? Yes, he did, in a bid to muscle him. But all he really did was lower the dignity of his office.

    For a president who’s always talking up the virtue of talk as the best way to resolve problems, he sure had a strange way of dealing with America’s best ally in the Middle East.

    The Daily Telegraph and the Times of London both reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House last Tuesday was a wretched one. Behind closed doors, Obama scrapped the talk and relied on a policy of rudeness instead.

    He handed Netanyahu 13 demands to sign off on, as part of the “peace process” with the Palestinians. Scrapping all niceties about Netanyahu representing a sovereign state, Obama told the Israeli to sign on or else. He signaled that his aims were all about himself, telling Bibi he had a meeting to go to in Libya in a couple of days, with the Arab League, and needed to show them something.

    When an astonished Netanyahu resisted, Obama walked off and ate dinner without inviting his guest.

    Telling Netanyahu to wait for him as a means of pressuring him to sign, he added: “Let me know if there’s anything new.” Netanyahu didn’t sign, and wanted nothing to do with Obama after that.

    This reeks of Chicago Way godfather politics, not dialogue, and for the most selfish and self-aggrandizing of purposes.

    Yes, Obama wanted concessions from Israel. But by bullying, not talking. If Obama disagrees with Netanyahu, the right way to deal with it is to talk — give and take — until both sides reach a deal.

    But since this is Israel, and Obama’s real aim seems to be to do what he can to topple Netanyahu’s shaky coalition so that a leader more to his liking will emerge, Israel got no such courtesies.

    The worst part of this, apart from the lack of hospitality, is that it pretty well degrades the office of the presidency.

    It tops the crummy treatment of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he was denied press conferences, forced to walk through back kitchens and took home cheapskate gifts.

    It also tops the “hospitality” the Dalai Lama got, escorted the long way out of the White House through a garbage-strewn patio.

    As word gets out about how Obama is using disrespect to undermine elected leaders, the time will come when few will want to talk with him. There’s a reason why diplomacy has its courtesies.

    Someday we may need one of these insulted leaders’ help on something of great importance to us. What will we do then?

    If Obama can’t refrain from Chicago-style muscle politics, he’ll find it eventually comes back on him. In the meantime, the person this boorish diplomacy reflects worst on is Obama himself.

  14. I wonder what everybody thinks about that DHS report we had last year? Seems it was right on the money now that we have this arrest of a violent christian fundamentalist group.

  15. “Hutaree” translates as “Christian warrior.” Writings on their website states “Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword…”

    “The Hutaree will one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield if so God wills it. We will reach out to those who are yet blind in the last days of the kingdoms of men and bring them to life in Christ.”

    When do we start the waterboarding of these terrorist so they can confess and give up their co-conspirators? Come on guys…at least some stress positions like hanging them in cold cages by the wrists with their arms tied behind their backs so that the shoulder joints dislocate. (Sarcasm provided)

  16. On a side note.

    What was the Republican White House working on well before President Clinton’s attempt at health care overhaul in the early ’90s?

    President George HW Bush wanted to use “the tax system to ‘encourage and empower’ individuals to buy health insurance and would enact insurance market reforms that make it possible for everyone — even if they have pre-existing health problems — to get insurance.” In short: individuals would be mandated to buy catastrophic health insurance. The cost of that coverage would be tied to income, meaning that the poorer you were, the less expensive your policy would be.

    Fancy that. The individual mandate was a Republican idea. They’re the ones who came up with it.

    What prominent Republicans have either endorsed the individual mandate, voted for a plan with an individual mandate, co-sponsored legislation with an individual mandate, or all of the above.

    George H.W. Bush, Richard Nixon, John McCain, Bob Dole, Mitt Romney, Scott Brown, Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Bob Bennett, Tommy Thompson, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, and Judd Gregg.

    Did these prominent Republicans know they supported a policy now seen by winguts as nothing less than an unconstitutional freedom-killing, affront of American liberty.

    The joke is that ALL of them have supported an individual mandate — a provision that Republicans now believe to be ARMAGEDDON?


  17. Obama’s approval rating was 47%-50% — the first time his disapproval rating has hit 50%.

    In the survey:

    • A plurality predicts the law will improve health care coverage generally and the overall health of Americans. But a majority says it also will drive up overall costs and worsen the federal budget deficit.

    • When it comes to their families, they see less gain and more pain: Pluralities say it will make coverage and quality of care worse for them. By 50%-21%, they predict it will make their costs higher.

    Opponents of the health care bill are a bit more likely than supporters to say the vote will have a major impact on their vote for Congress in the fall. Three in 10 are much more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes the bill. One in four are much more likely to vote for a candidate who supports it.

    The poll of 1,033 adults, taken by land line and cellphone Friday through Sunday, has a margin of error of +/–4 percentage points.

    Half call passage of the bill “a bad thing” and 47% “a good thing.” That differs from a one-day USA TODAY poll taken March 22 — a day after the House approved the legislation — in which a 49%-40% plurality called the bill “a good thing.”

    “Any one-day poll in the immediate aftermath of a major event is likely to be subject not only to sampling error but also to very short-term effects,” says political scientist Charles Franklin of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At the time, “the news cycle was dominated by the positive side of the story, and only a little bit by the Republicans’ rebuttal to that.”

    There was a strong reaction against the tactics Democratic leaders used to pass the bill. A 53% majority call Democratic methods “an abuse of power;” 40% say they are appropriate.

    And when asked about incidents of vandalism and threats that followed the bill’s passage, Americans are more inclined to blame Democratic political tactics than critics’ harsh rhetoric. Forty-nine percent say Democratic tactics are “a major reason” for the incidents, while 46% blame criticism by conservative commentators and 43% the criticism of Republican leaders.

    Which one of you fucktards said this thing was getting more popular?

    Rasmussen Reports 3/27 – 3/28 1000 LV 42/54 Against/Oppose +12
    USA Today/Gallup 3/26 – 3/28 1033 A 47/50 Against/Oppose +3
    Washington Post 3/23 – 3/26 1000 A 46/50 Against/Oppose +4
    Quinnipiac 3/22 – 3/23 1552 RV 40/49 Against/Oppose +9
    CBS News 3/22 – 3/23 649 A 42/46 Against/Oppose +4
    Bloomberg 3/19 – 3/22 1002 A 38/50 Against/Oppose +12
    CNN/Opinion Research 3/19 – 3/21 953 RV 39/59 Against/Oppose +20
    Democracy Corps (D) 3/15 – 3/18 1016 RV 40/52 Against/Oppose +12
    FOX News 3/16 – 3/17 900 RV 35/55 Against/Oppose +20
    PPP (D) 3/12 – 3/14 1403 RV 45/49 Against/Oppose +4
    NBC News/Wall St. Jrnl 3/11 – 3/14 1000 A 36/48 Against/Oppose +12
    Pew Research 3/10 – 3/14 1500 A 38/48 Against/Oppose +10

  18. Oh, and the liberal anti-Semite that was threatening Eric Cantor and his family, no snide remark for him?

    Gorilla, addressed in comment 18. You must have blinked.

    Thanks for the low flying planes. Not sure why you thought that would insult me … I found it was actually a gift … pretty cool.

    As for the poll numbers, let’s be honest … we all play the polling game to our advantage. Ultimately it’s probably meaningless. Doesn’t mean I won’t stoop to citing some poll in the future. Copy and paste this and call me on it when I do. 🙂

    P.S. Fox being popular is meaningless. As I’ve said before, so is Jerry Springer.

  19. Curator, from what I’ve heard, Hutaree is a totally made up word. Doesn’t actually mean anything.

    Here’s the real disturbing thing. Michigan militia gets arrested and Dead Rabbit stops commenting. Coincidence? I hope so! 🙂

  20. As a follow-up, it’s gotten a lot of play lately that Mitt Romney is in a real pickle. The current ACA resembles the MA plan big time and Romney signed off on that big time.

    I guess he was for it before he was against it. 😉

  21. One the mandate:
    There is only a little truth there to run with.
    One it would’ve needed to be seen where it went. Two it was on a different level in the 90’2,ie HSA and catastrophic coverage levels. It was more like insurance.
    And on Romney. He was never for a mandate. The mandate was inserted by the Legislature. The Dem Legislature. The LEgislature he had NO hope of overriding.
    I’ll give you he’s got nothing going for him though since MA HCR is an albatross around his neck one way or another.

  22. Rutherford, this blog bores the shit out of me anymore, but when I find something really special, I want to provide it for your enjoyment.

    I think I found Bongo’s pappy. The country is in the best of hands. 😆 Your Democratic Congress in action.

  23. “The whole island will tip over and capsize”


    Oh God …. who elected that mofo? I’m sorry Tex, Obama would never have said anything that stupid. The dude thinks an island is like a boat … too many people on it and it sinks!!!!! HOLY SH*T!!

    But then again, he is from Georgia, 😉 😉

  24. “I was hoping Sandi could have some good debate here but she’s got no one to debate with.”

    I gave it my best shot, Rutherford, but I guess my #13 just wasn’t substantive enough for your constitutional law guru. Looks like she will have to continue her 1-way arguments against her cherry-picked straw men.

  25. “LOL” in retrospect I should’ve sent all of you guys over to Sandi’s blog to comment there where you might have gotten more debate.

    One difference between us is I think she grows quickly impatient with debate while I don’t mind a bit of back and forth for a while.

    C’est la vie. Call this a failed experiment.

  26. I can see why she would quickly grow tired of debate. 1-way arguments against straw men are pretty dull, I would imagine. And it appears that is her favorite opponent. Then again, with the holes she left open, I can see why. It can’t be easy to defend that garbage against an actual person.

    It failed because your girl has no game. She came here and challenged us to produce substance (which you know damn well is red meat for this crew). When someone did, the crickets came out….she didn’t.

    Kind of reminds me of someone who claimed they would debate anyone any time…until he got challenged to a debate and decide he had debated the issues enough.

    You seem to have a thing for those types.

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