Sunday, February 13, 2011

Is the Senate Broken?

Interesting essay about change in the Senate, mostly for the worse. One reason for recent retirements?


Ryan Karerat said...

While the article brings up a lot of good points, it's also important to note that George Packer is basically approaching the question from the standpoint of a jaded liberal angry about the fact that the '08 election wasn't enough to allow liberals free reign to institute every piece of their wishlist. The checks and balances more or less worked like they were supposed to. The filibuster has gotten out of control as a weapon of Senators, but that aside, the complaints more or less come from the majority at times when they want to do more than the opposition is letting them. We didn't hear the Democrats calling for filibuster reform when they were blocking Bush's Social Security agenda, for example. Just like if/when the Republicans take back the Senate in 2012 and Democrats start using the same mechanisms they once railed against to block the Jim DeMint legislative agenda, it's going to be the Republicans making all the 'obstructionist' complaints.

And as far as legislative mechanisms being 'gamed,' for lack of a better word, by the politicians, let's not forget that health care reform was passed through an obscure budgetary gimmick called reconciliation.

I guess my point is that no, I don't think the Senate is necessarily broken. The biggest impediment to a productive legislative body in my eyes is the existence of basically the never-ending political campaign, which Packer touches on. But I think what we'll also see is that our legislative body is healthier and more productive when government is more divided - the frustration over the 'broken' Senate came mostly from liberals who wanted their majorities to give them a mandate to institute purely liberal reforms without too much negotiating or compromise. What happens in the next 2 years, now that the Republicans have more power, will give us a clearer idea of the 'health' of Congress. The biggest problem I see coming is that come summer 2011 and on, both sides will pivot into presidential election mode, and the dealmaking will probably cease as each side tries to fire up their base.

TJE said...

What I found interesting was: 1. his suggestion that the combination of hyperpartisanship and short weeks with packed schedules means that many Senators hardly know many of their colleagues 2. the demise of deliberation on the floor.