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  1. #1
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    Default Stop the Tyranny of the Minority Now

    Senator Richard Shelby, (R)idiculous, AL, has placed a general hold on all of Obama's government appointments. Why? Because he is angry that the administration is cutting pork barrel spending in his state.

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2....php?ref=fpblg

    More generally, the Republicans have made an unprecedented use of the filibuster in the past year, blocking %70 of all bills to come through the Senate. In one year, the Republicans have filibustered more bills than were filibustered in all of the 50's and 60's combined.

    The result is that it is now well understood that supermajorities are required to pass any legislation in Congress. With the election of Scott Brown as the 41st Senator, the Republicans now hold not only a power to delay legislation, but a power to effectively veto all of it.

    Republicans are abusing the filibuster. A few years ago, the Republicans threatened to abolish the filibuster because the Democrats filibustered a handful (%4.4) of Bush's federal judicial nominees. Yet today they are filibustering not just judicial nominees, but all nominees of any kind, and almost all legislation. They are even filibustering legislation they ultimately vote for.

    The filibuster isn't a Constitutional requirement. It is a Senate procedural rule, and by a simple majority Senate vote, Democrats can declare Republican filibuster abuse unconstitutional. The same procedural rule Republicans threatened to invoke a few years ago because the Democrats filibustered a few judicial nominees.

    Republicans are exercising the filibuster in an unconstitutional manner by turning it into a de facto requirement of 60 votes to pass legislation or make appointments. The Constitution specifies the majorities required to pass specific types of bills (simple majority for legislation, 2/3ds to ratify treaties, etc). Moreover, the Founding Fathers agreed that requiring supermajorities was bad for the country. How do we know? They explained it in the Federalist Papers:

    To give a minority a negative upon the majority (which is always the case where more than a majority is requisite to a decision), is, in its tendency, to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser... [I]ts real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of the government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent, or corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority... If a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority, respecting the best mode of conducting it, the majority, in order that something may be done, must conform to the views of the minority; and thus the sense of the smaller number will overrule that of the greater, and give a tone to the national proceedings. Hence, tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good. And yet, in such a system, it is even happy when such compromises can take place: for upon some occasions things will not admit of accommodation; and then the measures of government must be injuriously suspended, or fatally defeated. It is often, by the impracticability of obtaining the concurrence of the necessary number of votes, kept in a state of inaction...


    It is not difficult to discover, that a principle of this kind gives greater scope to foreign corruption, as well as to domestic faction, than that which permits the sense of the majority to decide; though the contrary of this has been presumed. The mistake has proceeded from not attending with due care to the mischiefs that may be occasioned by obstructing the progress of government at certain critical seasons... [W]e forget how much good may be prevented, and how much ill may be produced, by the power of hindering the doing what may be necessary, and of keeping affairs in the same unfavorable posture in which they may happen to stand at particular periods.

    Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 22, explaining that the Constitution does not require supermajorities in order to prevent the tyranny of the minority.
    It has been said that more than a majority ought to have been required for a quorum; and in particular cases, if not in all, more than a majority of a quorum for a decision. That some advantages might have resulted from such a precaution, cannot be denied. It might have been an additional shield to some particular interests, and another obstacle generally to hasty and partial measures. But these considerations are outweighed by the inconveniences in the opposite scale. In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority. Were the defensive privilege limited to particular cases, an interested minority might take advantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices to the general weal, or, in particular emergencies, to extort unreasonable indulgences.

    --James Madison, Federalist 58, explaining that the Constitution does not require supermajorities in order to prevent the tyranny of the minority.
    It's uncanny. It's almost like Madison and Hamilton time warped to 2009, watched the Senate in session, then went home and made reports about what they saw.

    Let me emphasize, Madison and Hamilton actually agreed on something! They agreed that the Constitution should generally not require supermajorities to pass legislation.

    Why, then, do Republicans think they know better than the Constitution and the Founding Fathers what is good for America? Why do Republicans think that subjecting America to the tyranny of the minority is acceptable?

    It is unacceptable. Senator Shelby should NOT be allowed to use the filibuster to extort porkbarrel spending for Alabama. Neither should the Republicans be allowed to use the filibuster to "extort unreasonable indulgences" from the majority's legislative agenda.

    It is time for the Democrats to exercise the Constitutional Option to restore the Senate to its Constitutional foundations as plainly expressed in that document, and in the Federalist Papers. It is time to declare Republican filibuster abuse unconstitutional, to end the tyranny of the minority, and enact the majority's will NOW!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Stop the Tyranny of the Minority Now

    Quote Quoting Baz744
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    The Constitution specifies the majorities required to pass specific types of bills (simple majority for legislation, 2/3ds to ratify treaties, etc).
    I know in the Senate the VP votes in case of a tie, so that is a simple majority, 51, but where does it specifically state the House needs just a simple majority? They do, but where? I know they can set thier own rules, is that what you mean?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Stop the Tyranny of the Minority Now

    Quote Quoting BOR
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    I know in the Senate the VP votes in case of a tie, so that is a simple majority, 51, but where does it specifically state the House needs just a simple majority? They do, but where? I know they can set thier own rules, is that what you mean?
    The procedural rule for declaring Senate rules unconstitutional is called a "point of order." A Senator calls for a point of order, asking the presiding officer (Biden) to rule whether the rule is Constitutional. If the presiding officer declares the rule unconstitutional, his ruling either stands or is challenged. If it is challenged, it can be upheld by a simple majority vote.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_option

    The filibuster has always been limited, in part, by the knowledge that it can be taken away by a simple majority vote. Both parties have always respected that the filibuster is to be used sparingly.

    Until now.

    Now the Republicans are flagrantly abusing it. They know it, the Democrats know it, and it is time to put a stop to it.

    I know in the Senate the VP votes in case of a tie, so that is a simple majority, 51, but where does it specifically state the House needs just a simple majority?
    I just want to make sure I understand your position clearly:

    1) Article I specifies the that presiding officer votes when the Senate is "divided equally."

    2) It further specifies certain limited circumstances wherein supermajorities are required to do particular legislative acts.

    3) But the House can require a supermajority to pass legislation, even though it was intended to be the People's House, and both Hamilton and Madison agreed that in most cases, supermajority requirements are bad bad bad?

    I think your position is manifestly wrong, but I take responsibility for misstating in my original post. The reality is that the Constitution specifies when particular supermajorities are required to do legislative acts, and it is therefore implied that a simple majority is required to do most acts.

    How do we know that the framers understood this implication?

    1) Without coming out and saying that "The Senate shall require a simple majority to legislate," they nonetheless gave the VP the tie breaking vote when the Senate is "equally divided." It was just so obvious that the Senate required only a simple majority to do most business that they didn't need to say it expressly.

    2) The Constitution specifies particular instances wherein supermajorities are required.

    3) Both Hamilton and Madison indicated in the Federalist Papers that supermajority requirements suck, and create a tyranny of the minority.

    4) When Hamilton and Madison wrote the Federalist Papers, both knew that the Constitution did not expressly require simple majorities, yet they defended simple majority requirements as though they were plain as day.

    5) The people who they were responding to in the Federalist Papers understood that because the Constitution did not specifically require supermajorities meant that therefore it only required simple majorities.

    In short, all of the framers, as indicated in what we know of their debates and writings, understood that only simple majorities were required to pass legislation.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Stop the Tyranny of the Minority Now

    Quote Quoting Baz744
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    More generally, the Republicans have made an unprecedented use of the filibuster in the past year, blocking %70 of all bills to come through the Senate. In one year, the Republicans have filibustered more bills than were filibustered in all of the 50's and 60's combined.

    Republicans are abusing the filibuster. A few years ago, the Republicans threatened to abolish the filibuster because the Democrats filibustered a handful (%4.4) of Bush's federal judicial nominees.
    Could you point me to a reference for Senate use of filibusters? I've been trying to find some statistics covering the tactic over the last few decades and haven't yet found anything very satisfying. I'd appreciate any source you can add!

    Thanks - and great post!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Stop the Tyranny of the Minority Now

    Quote Quoting Xenophanes
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    Could you point me to a reference for Senate use of filibusters? I've been trying to find some statistics covering the tactic over the last few decades and haven't yet found anything very satisfying. I'd appreciate any source you can add!

    Thanks - and great post!
    There's a handy chart here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filibuster

    There are some other filibuster statistics listed here. This claims that there was one filibuster during the entire 1950's:

    http://www.usnews.com/blogs/robert-s...ilibuster.html

    And here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_option

    325 Bush appointees were confirmed to the federal bench. The Democrats filibustered 7.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...George_W._Bush

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Stop the Tyranny of the Minority Now

    Quote Quoting Baz744
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    I think your position is manifestly wrong, but I take responsibility for misstating in my original post. The reality is that the Constitution specifies when particular supermajorities are required to do legislative acts, and it is therefore implied that a simple majority is required to do most acts.


    What posistion is manifestly wrong?

    Implied reasoning is not "specific", as I asked to be pointed out!

    ....but where does it specifically state the House needs just a simple majority..
    I am and was aware of the constitutional language in Article 1 to determine implications. Clinton was Impeached for Obstruction of Justice, 221-212, the Majority was 218, so I am aware of majority votes.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Stop the Tyranny of the Minority Now

    Quote Quoting BOR
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    What posistion is manifestly wrong?
    The position, if you hold it, that the failure to expressly state a simple majority requirement for the passage of legislation in the House of Representatives precludes a simple majority Constitutional mandate.

    Implied reasoning is not "specific", as I asked to be pointed out!
    Yes. Thank you for correcting my mistake.

    Even though the Constitution does not expressly mandate a simple majority requirement for the passage of legislation through the House of Representatives (though it does through the Senate), it is evident that the framers understood that a simple majority rule was the Constitutional norm. See previous post.

    It is, of course, entirely relevant to the discussion that the Constitution expressly specifies a simple majority requirement for the Senate. The Senate's de facto supermajority requirement is the issue we're talking about here. Even if the House may permissibly require a supermajority to pass legislation, it is apparent that the Senate may not.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Stop the Tyranny of the Minority Now

    Let's go back to the reason for the argument.

    You are saying it is wrong and unjust for a Senator to withhold a vote due to a lack of pork in their state.

    I think there has been ample proof lately that both sides of the aisle openly and commonly resort to this type of behavior.

    I am not saying that makes it right... quite the opposite. I believe in two issues here...

    One... that any bill that has over 10% of it's value in pork OR a value of pork in excess of $10 million be vetoed.

    Two... that any senator or congressperson that engages in these types of tactics be the subject of a campaign to remove them from office.

    Yes, I know... it is how government is run... sausage and law and all that.

    I am just saying it is time for the vote buying and influence peddling to stop.

    Further, why is it that so few members of the House and Senate have zero personal debt? Are we to assume that people that have this little grasp of money are personally very fiscally responsible? Even if they entered government with a normal debt load?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Stop the Tyranny of the Minority Now

    Jeff defending tyranny... imagine that.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Stop the Tyranny of the Minority Now

    Quote Quoting blueeagle
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    Jeff defending tyranny... imagine that.
    How in the heck was that defending tyranny?

    I said, quite clearly I thought, that any government official pursuing personal gain - and, let's face it, pork is just a way to stay in office - should be thrown out on their ear.

    hardly defensive.

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