Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Filibuster Buster, Barack

Everyone here knows I think our Gov. Deval Patrick is peachy keen. His biggest shortcoming is only partially his.

He promised us a lot of improvements and change in government. He campaigned on his ability to get antithetical legislative and administrative characters to concur and achieve. He noted how he had effected just that a Coke and other places he had worked on been on the board.

We've seen a lot less of that than we hoped and expected.

The primary reason for diminished accomplishment is obviously the obstructionist lawmakers, particularly Speaker of the House Salvatore F. DiMasi. Unlike company management, the political structure makes it much harder to get rid of the satraps and other power hording pols. Too many in the House have too much influence and present or future cash at risk here. They have parceled out the good programs and laws Patrick proposed and kept their bags of goodies.

Besides being a buddy of Patrick's, Obama has made very similar promises. Most Americans are likely to expect him to do what's necessary to right the economy, disengage us from stupid, wasteful wars that kill our citizens and drain our finances, and to, well, make changes and get good laws.

In addition to his keen abilities and the advisers he'll gather, he has another advantage over Patrick. The whole nation is watching the highest-stakes job. They won't want self-important lawmakers stopping progress.

The foolish-consistency folk were clucking like rasorial a a bunch. Democrats didn't get the 60-vote majority in the Senate that would let them stop filibusters. The archaic U.S. Senate rules basically let 40 or more senators prevent discussion and passage of laws. With 60 votes instead of anything less, assuming the Dems all fall in line on a bill, they could discuss and vote on what they wanted without the games.

Many post-election analyses have included woe-is-Barack because of his not having 60 Senate Dems. It's glib to say that that isn't necessary. It would make things easier, but like Patrick, Obama has promised to make the right and righteous happen.

Senate Dems haven't been able to invoke cloture for many years. Thus, the Senate has been pretty impotent on any issue not advanced by the Bush administration. Even with the relatively aggressive Majority Leader Harry Reid, they have let the threat or even the shadow of filibuster make them sit in their own sweat.

So, truth and knowledge for the new President is set a new tone. The Senate will never, ever give up this puerile power. So, make 'em do it.

When a big bill is up for discussion in the Senate and the votes aren't there, push it. Make the public see who is blocking the bill that will provide veterans' benefits, or properly regulate the financial industry, or provide WPA-style jobs to put Americans to work. Don't let the Republicans hide behind filibuster like a punk who has his hand in his pocket and says, "Give me your wallet. I have a gun."

If the GOP Senators want to hinder and harm our recovery and growth, make 'em do it publicly. This is the brave and honest kind of shaming.

If they want to goof on America, people need to know that. It may well be that Obama can get the kind of persuasive reputation that Lyndon Johnson had. I suspect Obama would never use the kind of private blackmail Johnson would, but he shouldn't have to. Johnson also was famous for telling holdouts that they need to consider that their constituents would think if their holdup was public.

I bet it wouldn't be hard to get three or five or ten Senators who step up and do the right thing.

It's long past time. Democrats have to show some moxie to go with their bluster.

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