Negative Interest

Alana Goodman does not understand how the Senate works

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Via Doug Mataconis, Commentary’s Alana Goodman (a fellow UMass-Amherst alum) takes issue with the idea that President Obama’s jobs bills have been blocked by Senate Republicans.

Goodman’s reasoning essentially comes down to: “Memo to Obama and the media: the Senate is controlled by Democrats.”

In Goodman’s world, the party with a slim majority is solely responsible for blocking failed bills. Nowhere in the piece does the word “filibuster” appear, but Goodman implies that it was the Democrats who killed the bill. Never mind that the 53 caucusing Democrats (including independent Joe Lieberman, one of three nay votes on the Democratic side) would not have the votes to invoke cloture with unanimous support. That’s where the Republicans come in.

There would be two ways for Republicans to help move this legislation forward. One way would be to not make cloture votes a necessary procedure for every bill in the Senate. A bill could still pass without Republican support if allowed to move forward without reaching the 60-vote threshold. The second would be for Republicans to vote for the legislation. As Goodman notes, not a single Republican Senator voted for either bill in question. Naturally, Goodman blames this on the president:

Obama’s political posturing–and many of the media reports–deliberately ignores a key fact. There was no bipartisan support for his bill.

Yes, it is extraordinarily difficult to claim bipartisan support for a bill if the other party refuses to vote for it. In an alternate universe with President McCain running the show, you can bet that most Republican Senators would have no problem voting for spending on infrastructure and funding for teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

The rest of the piece is no more encouraging:

But there was bipartisan opposition. If Obama’s goal was to get his legislation passed, he would concentrate on persuading the Democratic holdouts to join his side. But instead he’s focusing on attacking the minority GOP in the Senate, which should tell you all you need to know about his intentions.

I clicked on the “Democratic holdouts” link. It led to a Washington Post story which finds exactly two Senate Democrats who voted to block the cloture motion (three if including Majority Leader Reid, who switched his vote to no for procedural reasons). If President Obama concentrate on persuading Jon Tester and Ben Nelson to join his side, and Reid kept his original “yes” vote, that would leave the bill with the support of 53 Senators. I am confident in the value of a UMass education, so I trust that Alana Goodman also recognizes that 53 is less than 60. Unfortunately, I see little reason to be confident that she understands that unanimous Democratic support would do nothing without the support of seven Republicans.

When the Washington Post article describes how “a unified Republican caucus and a pair of Democrats joined to deny the proposal the 60 votes needed to allow it to proceed to full consideration,” I am inclined to believe that the unified Republican caucus is more statistically significant than the pair of Democrats. Whether or not the Senate is controlled by Democrats (basically a mischaracterization when Democrats do not have the filibuster-proof majority required for every bill in this day and age), the party that voted en masse to defeat a piece of legislation should receive the blame for its defeat.


Written by negativeinterest

October 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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