The Big Question: Are Senate Dems stalling?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.





Today's question:

House Democratic leaders have compiled a list showing that they have passed 290 bills that have stalled in the Senate.

Are Senate Democrats stalling on House bills? If so, what does this say about Congress?

Some background reading here.



Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, said:

The problem of Senate inaction is overwhelmingly due to Senate rules that allow a minority of Senators -- indeed, even just one in -- to stop action on what the majority supports. Simply the threat of a filibuster blocks legislation, given how much Senate time it takes to overcome it.

As I argued in the Washington Post last weekend, the proper function of these Senate rules is to encourage more deliberation and transparency, not block majority rule and the accountability that comes with it. The effect at this point is just the opposite.


Hal Lewis, professor of Physics at UC Santa Barbara, said:

Silly me, I thought that was the way Congress is supposed to work, with independent chambers to balance each other. There is a wonderful word, ochlocracy, which means mob rule, and it was a matter of great concern to the Founding Fathers. Read the Federalist Papers.

The real problem is not the inaction of the Senate (which you choose to call stalling), but the transformation of the House from a supposedly deliberative body into a mob.


A. B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist, said:

Nothing will change this process unless the filibuster is eliminated. It doesn't matter which party is in charge, the Senate grinds any legislative agenda, of any president, and of any House majority, to a halt. I remember a member of the House GOP leadership telling me in the fall of 2006, just weeks before Republicans lost their majorities and at the height of President Bush's unpopularity, that if the Senate hadn't messed everything up for the House it wouldn't seem so bad. This is a permanent problem for both parties and the country until both parties start working together to compromise on bipartisan legislation, passing bills with more than 60 votes in the Senate, or the filibuster has to go.


Brad Delong, professor of Economics at the UC Berkeley, said:

I thought Senate Republicans were creating gridlock in the Senate?


Peter Navarro, professor of economics and public policy at UC Irvine, said:

Stalling is the optimal strategy for any Democrat facing a tough re-election bid who also has to worry about party pressure and hanging on to his/her base.  Of course there will be stalling in the Senate.  You will see it soon in the House as well…..



Justin Raimondo,
editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

That's why we have a bicameral national legislative body: the Founders intended things to work this way. Not that House Democrats care about the Constitution, or anything like that, but I'm just sayin' ....

These House members who have compiled a l;ist showing that they have passed 290 bills that have "stalled" in the Senate confuse quantity with quality. And just examine the language being used here: "stalled" implies that we're traveling in a car, possibly on a freeway, but is it the freeway to freedom or the freeway to another place that we'd rather not be? Aren't there any speed restrictions on this road, or have House Democrats now thrown all caution to the winds? And what about seat-belts -- is everybody wearing them? And one more question: can I get out of the car if I don't like where it's going....?


Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:

Have you people heard of something called the "filibuster?" Find a high school history text and read about, then you can ask us why the Republicans in the Senate are blocking everything in sight.


Peter Fenn, Democratic strategist, said:

Hello?  It is called the FILIBUSTER --  Republicans OBSTRUCTING, not a question of Democrats stalling.  Why would Democrats stall?  Unfortunately, these days it takes 60 votes to rename a Post Office in the Senate.


John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

Part of the reason why the Senate seems to be stalling is the threat of filibuster looming over them.  Leftist Senators are reluctant to see a proposal go down in flames.  They're hoping for a change in their direction that doesn't seem to be materializing.  Thank goodness for filibusters!
 
As 2010 proceeds, there will be fewer Democrats willing to champion controversial (socialistic) legislation because they all know, especially in swing states, that the independent voting public has swung away from the Left and is headed toward the Right.  So the stalling in Senate has proven to be helpful to those of us who don't want more socialistic legislation enacted.