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Senior House Democrat: “The Senate is just a pain in the ass to everybody in the world as far as I can tell.”

By Climate Guest Contributor

"Senior House Democrat: “The Senate is just a pain in the ass to everybody in the world as far as I can tell.”"

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This Think Progress repost is about health care, but you could just as easily substitute “climate change,” especially if anti-science ideologues are able to kill the bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill.

With President Obama indicating “that he intends to use the Senate bill as the framework” for the final health care reform legislation, House Democrats are venting “their frustration with the direction of the debate.” House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) told reporters yesterday that there is “a problem on both sides of the Capitol. A serious problem.” An anonymous senior House Democrat, however, placed particular blame on the Senate:

With all of these issues at a standstill, tensions are growing between the two chambers. Several House lawmakers have voiced frustration with Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) over concessions and special deals they cut in the Senate version.

“The Senate is just a pain in the ass to everybody in the world as far as I can tell. I’m so angry that I just wish from now on that we’d just find out what it is that Lieberman and Nelson will let us have,” the senior lawmaker said. “But we’re not giving up on anything in the House.”

“We keep hearing them squeal like pigs in the Senate that they had a tough time getting to 60,” Weiner said. “Well, it wasn’t particularly a picnic for us to get to 218. Generally speaking, the Senate kabuki dance has lost its magic on those of us in the House.”

Last month, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) harshly criticized the gridlock of the Senate. “This body prides itself on being the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Specter said. “That designation has been destroyed with what has occurred here the past few days.” Matt Yglesias argued at the time that “the Senate has always been problematic” because it began as “a special house of the legislature designed to undermine democratic accountability.”

‹ Jeremy Symons on prospects for bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill. NWF opposes Murkowski’s “Dirty Air Act amendment” AND an energy-only bill.

“How scientists can change policy by getting their message (and timing!) right” ›

12 Responses to Senior House Democrat: “The Senate is just a pain in the ass to everybody in the world as far as I can tell.”

  1. Dean says:

    Throughout the late 1800′s, the Senate was the death chamber for reform legislation which in those days often dealt with issues like railroad monopolies and the like. The solution? The 17th amendment to the US Constitution which abolished state legislature choice of Senators in favor of popular elections. Yes, this is one that the Founders got terribly wrong. This was passed in the Progressive Era in 1913.

    Now we need one to prevent having the Senate via its own rules effectively change the constitution’s simple majority rule. Madison would have a fit if he saw how the Senate operated today. The constitution authorizes the Congress to establish its own rules, but those rules shouldn’t change constitutional definitions.

    Blaming Lieberman or Nelson is pointless. If the legal structure allows people to seize that kind of power,they are going to do so. It’s the structure that is flawed.

  2. B. Waterhouse says:

    Dean -all true, plus the tiny population rural states get the same two votes as NY and CA. Will we lose the climate change bill because of rural voters’ overrepresentation in the Senate?

  3. PurpleOzone says:

    I frankly think the Senate needs to allow filibusters. Eventually it would fall of its own weight. In order to filibuster, not only do the Republicans have to stay awake and on their feet in the middle of the night, but they have to avoid saying things so idiotic it would damage them. (I think there must be such sayings?)

    It used to be a bill got passed or didn’t. Only occasionally was a bill so draconian it prompted a filibuster. Usually involving slavery. Most recently, the filibuster over the civil rights bill (~1963) was stopped by a compromise. But not having had the filibuster would have been worse than having it.

  4. Leif says:

    B. Waterhouse, #2: A very important observation. I believe I have heard that ~ 20% of the population controls 50% of the senate.

  5. dhogaza says:

    Throughout the late 1800’s, the Senate was the death chamber for reform legislation which in those days often dealt with issues like railroad monopolies and the like.

    That was piddling compared to the role of the Senate in the antebellum era, in particular the 1840s and 1850s.

    I frankly think the Senate needs to allow filibusters. Eventually it would fall of its own weight. In order to filibuster, not only do the Republicans have to stay awake and on their feet in the middle of the night, but they have to avoid saying things so idiotic it would damage them. (I think there must be such sayings?)

    The problem is that part of the compromise that led to cloture requiring 2/3+1 (currently 67) votes to the less extreme 60% ( currently 60) votes was to make it possible to filibuster without actually filibustering.

    That’s why you don’t see Senators reading the phone book into the record for 24 hours straight, etc. In the past, filibusters worked because there was no multi-track process for dealing with bills, so starting a filibuster not long before the close of a Congress would stall every bill behind it, and if the filibustering side could parade enough hardy souls to keep talking for days or weeks, others would fear that important legislation wouldn’t get addressed before session end.

    And sometimes those bills being blocked would be important to the filibusterers, too, leading to increased odds that they’d give up and move on.

    A massive game of chicken, in other words.

    The old-style filibuster with a 60% cloture requirement and today’s multi-track process for legislation would leave it somewhat toothless compared to what evolved from the compromise, fewer votes for cloture but essentially just a notification that “we’ll filibuster!” without having to do so being able to block that one bill. While other bills flow around it, thus lowering the pressure to get a cloture vote on the one being filibustered.

  6. dhogaza says:

    Let me try this again:

    The problem is that part of the compromise that led to changing cloture from requiring 2/3+1 (currently 67) votes to the less extreme 60%…

  7. h20_nh says:

    Well the senate may be even more a pain in the ass if the Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts senate seat goes to a republican. Seemed impossible a few weeks ago, but it’s essentially a tie race now; election a week from today. Could be death blow to health care (an aside for a climate website but almost impossible to believe the irony that the champion of health care reform [kennedy's] senate seat could go to a republican and kill health care reform); seems energy bill/climate change bill could survive.

  8. B. Waterhouse says:

    I did a quick back of the envelope calculation: Assuming each senator represents 1/2 of his/her state’s population, Senate Republicans represent about 114 million Americans while Senate Dems/Inds represent about 194 million.

  9. Mossy says:

    h20_nh, I don’t know how the climate bill will survive if Republican Scott Brown wins Kennedy’s seat in MA. Scott is a denier, stating that the climate is always changing, that cap and trade is a scheme and an energy tax. When I called his office to ask his aide to look at the climate studies, paid for by billions of taxpayer money and authorized by the Bush administration, available at http://www.globalchange.gov, which verify both the cause and severity of climate change, the aide hung up on me (and I was really trying to be nice, informative, and non-confrontational). Doesn’t bode well. MA voters, get out there en masse and vote for Martha Coakley!

  10. Leif says:

    B. Waterhouse: Another way to look at it is what is the lowest population of GOP states to control 50% of the Senate opposed to the highest population of the states to control the other half. I am sure that the numbers would be even more unbalanced. After all one only needs a majority of the senate to control the rest of the Nation.

  11. riverat says:

    B. Waterhouse: The question is not so much how many people are registered by each party but how motivated they are to vote. The R’s are typically more motivated and turn out in higher percentages I think.

    I’ve been kicking around and idea I had for reforming the Senate. I don’t know if it’s any good and it’s probably an impossible change to make but what if instead of being elected by state the Senate was elected by party in a national election? Each party would have a slate of candidates and the number of actual Senators they get would be proportional to number of votes the party got. That way the Senate would accurately reflect the various political ideologies of the country. I’d probably vote Green.

  12. James Newberry says:

    I propose a new law: No person shall lobby government who is paid to do so. Globalized corporate plutocracy (transfascism?) is un-American, and is destroying our nation and planetary ecologic systems.