Dodd Defends Filibuster, Calls for More “Civility”


Chris Dodd says filibusters are great:

“I totally oppose the idea of changing filibuster rules,” Dodd said during an appearance on MSNBC. “That’s foolish, in my view.”

Some other Democratic senators, led by Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), have introduced a measure to change the filibuster, though leaders have acknowledged it is unlikely to pass.

Still, Democrats have been stymied on top priorities like health reform and climate change legislation by not being able to get the 60 votes needed to end debate, despite having had a majority of that size for some months.

Dodd said that changing filibuster rules wouldn’t do much to change a culture of incivility he said had crept into the Senate.

“There’s nothing wrong with partisanship. We’ve got to get over this notion that there’s something evil about partisanship,” the Connecticut senator said. “It’s the lack of civility.”

This mostly strikes me as non-responsive. Absolutely nobody outside of Washington, DC cares how civil or incivil members of the United States Senate are to one another. Indeed, as best I can tell Senators actually treat each other in an excessively polite manner. Any normal human being would have been disgusted by the bipartisan outpouring of love for corrupt mediocrity Ted Stevens that issued forth on the Senate floor on the occasion of his departure from the world’s least-functional deliberative body. But one way or another, the goal of Senate rules should be good public policy. If Dodd has an argument that the filibuster improves public policy, he should offer it. But “civility” is a non-issue.

I think there’s clear reason to believe that majority rule would, by reducing the bargaining power of individual members vis-a-vis party leadership and the White House, lead to policymaking that’s more focused on the national interest. Evan Bayh, for example, brags about how he “helped revitalize the recreational vehicle industry during tough times in the economic recession, passing a generous new sales tax deduction to help families purchase recreational vehicles.” Of course there’s no reason to think that a special tax incentive to buy RVs is good idea for America. But they build RVs in Indiana. And the need to assemble 60 votes to pass legislation makes it very reasonable for legislative leaders to agree to small-bore bad ideas like this in order to secure people’s votes. If you only need 50 votes there will still be side-deals, of course, but the “price” of such deals will be lower.