Senator demands action: “Our country is facing the greatest threat to our freedom and future since 1941.”

Where is the Senate?

Our country is facing the greatest threat to our freedom and future since 1941. Any honest view of our … challenges shows we must make major changes if we are going to pass on the American way of life to our children. Each week seems to bring new warning signs….

If these facts are true “” and very few policymakers deny them “” why has the U.S. Senate become the least deliberative “greatest deliberative body” in the world?

So opens a WashPost op-ed by a well-known Senator. Okay, it’s Tom Coburn talking about the deficit, not the global Ponzi scheme, not human civilization on the precipice. But the op-ed almost reads as if he were.


This blog post is a follow up to “Why does Washington DC have so many more deficit hawks than climate hawks?” If only politicians cared as much about not dumping an unmanageable and unlivable climate on their children as they claim to care about not dumping a less threatening and less unmanageable economic problem on them.

The language of the deficit hawks could almost be used word for word by climate hawks — and more accurately:

The lack of leadership and initiative in the Senate is appalling. As of this week, the Senate has held just 72 roll call votes this year, about one per legislative day on mostly noncontroversial and inconsequential matters. By this time last year, we had taken more than twice that number of votes (152). By this time in 2009, we had taken 192 votes. If we continue to avoid tough choices, we will lose control of our … destiny and go down in history as the Senate that lost America. Our epitaph will read: Never before in the field of legislating was so much ignored by so many for so long….

I understand the disappointment, and real danger, associated with our impasse. The question, though, is not how we tried and failed but why the Senate has not even tried. Commissions and “gangs” form when members lose confidence in the institutions in which they serve. Working groups have their place “” but they should support, not replace, the open work of the full Senate….

We are facing what Democrat Erskine Bowles calls the most predictable … crisis in history. There is no excuse for not having bills on the Senate floor with an open amendment process that allows the American people to fully comprehend not only the magnitude of our problems but the possible solutions…. Change happens when the American people see real debate, not partisan political theater.

As the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid bears special responsibility for failing to direct attention to the central challenges of our time….

It is not realistic to expect six members to pull the Senate out of its dysfunction and lethargy. Some will ask why we should have more hope in an open, deliberative process, in which all senators are engaged, when a dedicated few did not succeed. The America I know comes together when tough times call for us to do so. It’s time for the Senate to earn its reputation as the world’s greatest deliberative body and help lead that effort. The constituency to help 60 senators agree on a … plan already exists among the public….

Getting there, however, will require the Senate to put forward specific solutions and win public support…. In the coming weeks I’ll be putting forward my own proposal that puts everything on the table…. I hope my colleagues present their ideas as well. I’m confident that in a free and open debate, the best solutions for America will prevail, but only if we have the debate.

History has not been kind to republics that pretend … beyond their means indefinitely. We can cheat history, but only if we act quickly. If senators put our national security ahead of our political security, the American people will see there is no problem we cannot solve. Let the debate begin.

Hear! Hear! Sort of.

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