Break the filibuster

Congress should end the dictatorship of do-nothing, pass an emergency economic package and defeat any filibuster as the filibuster against the 1964 Civil Rights Act was defeated.

Economic crisis engulfs every corner of America except the corridor in Washington that is frozen in the ice of indifference and obstructionism while the storm darkens, the dangers multiply, the pain deepens, the crisis worsens.

I warned in a column last year and again this year of a spreading contagion of credit crises, skyrocketing foreclosures, financial instability and deepening recession, yet:

The puny stimulus package enacted early this year offers miniscule money that will merely pay for $4-a-gallon gas, high food prices and foreign imports, with the rest of the money financing dangerously low savings or high debt.

The banking bill passed by the Senate fails to address the core of the crisis, rewards companies responsible for it, helps only a handful of homeowners and could actually increase foreclosures in America.

The president speaks bromides of laissez-faire theory. Republicans threaten filibusters against almost everything. In the Bear Stearns case, there was a run on the bank by the wealthy, our financial structure almost collapsed, the stock market almost crashed, and public confidence was further eroded while unemployment and jobless claims rise.

With the president unwilling to act and the Congress unable to act, the Federal Reserve Board assumed the roles of the president, Congress, a hedge fund, a money center bank, an investment bank and a monoline insurer force-feeding in panic one of the clumsiest banking deals in history.

This is what happens when the greatest common denominator of action is the least common denominator of what obstructionists will not filibuster.

Jefferson said the great sin of any generation is to dump its failures on future generations, yet:

We are dumping on future presidents, Congresses and generations the price of a trillion-dollar war without end, a trillion-dollar economic crisis without action, a trillion-dollar healthcare crisis without relief, a trillion-dollar energy failure dominated by $110-a-barrel oil, and financing shortfalls for Social Security, Medicare, education and veterans’ care.

Year after year, filibuster after filibuster, we have become what Jefferson warned us against.

We are leaving a mammoth legacy of burdens for others to bear, with great harm to the American economy today.

This is the dictatorship of do-nothing, with the minority abusing the rules of the Senate, destroying the rights of the majority, showing contempt for the will of voters and damaging the national economy.

This effectively destroys the constitutional role of both the House and Senate. When this obstruction is used against virtually every important measure, it is a direct attack against the very purpose of American elections.

Democrats should bring to the floor of both houses an economic recovery bill offering genuine support to American homeowners, workers and consumers. It should include bridge money as proposed by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), and bankruptcy protection proposed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Democrats should work any weekend, cancel any recess, and aim all cannons toward any of the more than 40 Senate Republicans running in 2008 and 2010 who filibuster against this.

Most likely a genuine compromise will pass. If not, the voters will decide for whom the bell tolls, on Election Day.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then-chief deputy whip of the House. He serves on the Advisory Council of the Intelligence Summit and as contributing editor of Fighting Dems News Service. He can be read on The Hill Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.