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Merkley: Senate is “Dysfunctional”

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Merkley: Senate is “Dysfunctional”"

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Back 12 months ago when most liberals were full of hope, I was full of fear. Fear that the insane procedural rules of the United States Senate would stymie progress. And I think I’ve been vindicated. I didn’t really expect to see anything done about this, but it’s been frustrating to me that almost nobody in the Senate seems willing to even acknowledge the problem. There hasn’t been even a tiny block of reformist senators, and Russ Feingold, who’s generally the senator most likely to care about political reform, often expresses unsound views on this subject.

Jeff Merkley to the rescue! He talks to David Dayen:

FDL News: Let’s talk about those procedural difficulties. You’ve been in the Senate a year now. How do you think the process works?

Merkley: There’s no question that the Senate has become dysfunctional, and it’s not good for democracy. I think there are a lot of reasons for that. First, not a lot of folks know each other. We’re here three days a week and then back in our districts. Sometimes you need personal bonds to overcome that partisanship. I got to know people at the state legislature level just by sitting next to them in committees. And we could work together on issues and move things forward. There’s a lot of isolation in the Senate. I think there are a lot of reinforcing factors to the partisanship as well.

But there’s no question that the procedure itself is dysfunctional. I’m working with a colleague to come up with some ideas to improve that. It’s going to be a long-term project, because to change the rules around here takes 67 votes. But we’ve come up with some ideas.

Between this and his stand against Ben “Ten Percent Unemployment is Fine By Me” Bernanke, Merkely is rapidly becoming my favorite member of the world’s worst deliberative body.

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