The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Jan 212010

This article in the Washington Post from last month is an interesting read. It seems fairly certain that, among the many reforms a [4T] reconstruction of government will require, elimination of the filibuster in its current form will be one of them.  Several years ago, when the GOP was in power, Trent Lott called overruling the filibuster “the nuclear option.”  I guess that pretty much suggests the crisis imagery that surrounds the idea of its abolition.  Sometime soon, though, one party or the other will just go ahead and do it.  A bare majority of the Senate has *always* had the constitutional power to overrule the filibuster on a moment’s notice.  The Senate has simply never exercised it.  Wait until more Silent (born 1925-1942) are gone and more Generation X (born 1961-1981) have arrived.  Pow!  It will disappear overnight.

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  • Matthew

    I personally am starting to believe the Senate ought to abolished altogether. Thomas Jefferson was opposed to the creation of the Senate originally. A Senate traditionally going back to the ancient Greeks is supposed to a more aristocratic body representing the wealthy and privileged class as opposed to the House, which traditionally represents the interests of the commoners. The Senate was created for two main reasons; to give small states a supposively stronger voice in the legislative branch. The other reason is that the framers of the Constitution did not fully trust the will of the majority of people and thought we still needed an elite to make more “enlightened” decisions. I believe today that most Senators are bought and paid for by wealthy and powerful interests and have become almost a sort of aristocratic class. It would definately take a Crisis atmosphere and new constitutional convention to acheive this and I am under no illusions that it is likely to happen any time soon. However, if it were to happen I believe we would be one step closer to a more democratic and egalitarian society.

  • Richardboomer

    My Senator Merkley from Oregon commented in the article!
    So, this is an example of the crisis atmosphere. Neither party can govern even when they have a supermajority. Great example.

  • fearful

    I am speaking as a millenial, and one whom is both deeply concerned with, and active in politics. I am very worried about the present state of the union. Not in terms of the presidency of Obama, but in that it is bringing out the last gasp of the culture wars. My co-generationals and I (regardless of youthful liberal leanings) want pragmatic reactions to the problems at hand. We generally don't expect perfection, but some action needs to be taken. Yet the republican minority in the senate, has taken a stance of nihilism. The fillibuster is being used in a deeply cynical manner. It is allowing a minority, to oppose any and all legislation, inorder to deny the democrats any victory for the 2012 election. The fact that deep compremises are needed to achieve the super majority needed to overcome the threat of the fillibuster (actually the invoking of cloture) is has been fracturing Obama's 2008 coalition. While this is good for the Republican party politically, it is not good for the long term health of our country. I fear the consequences of my generation becoming another “lost generation” as we seem inclined towards political action. But what will the action be after 20-30 years of persistant and endemic corruption.

    • Carolina Collins

      Can't help myself ….. The current 2008-elected Democrats held the SUPER MAJORITY in the Senate right up until Scott Brown was elected in the Mass. Special Election in January 2010.

      On paper, the Republicans SHOULD have been able to do as attributed which is fillibuster / hold up legislation after Brown was sworn in. Unfortunately, (or not, depending on your outlook) that is not how this particular Congress is conducting business.

      Democrat leadership, being fully aware that the Baucus Bill had zero chance of passing the Senate with the addition of Senator Brown, decided to use the procedural method of “Reconciliation” (a procedure rule written by long time Democrat Sen Robert Byrd (D-WV) that contained the caveat it could only be used to pass budget bills with a simple majority ie 51 votes), to pass the Baucus Bill out of the Senate.

      This was never meant to be used to pass sweeping reform legislation as per Senator Byrd himself, but be that as it may, a simple majority, 51 and not a super majority, 60 votes was the route taken by the Dem leaders to advance Health Care out of the Senate.

      Sooo, even though the Republicans finally broke the Democrat's 'fillibuster-proof' majority, the Democrats STILL HELD MAJORITY seats in the Senate & made use of that majority by calling reconciliation, therefore by-passing Senator Brown's 60th vote against passage.

      It was the Senate Democrat's use of simple majority that eventually lead to Obamacare being signed into law. The Republicans could not stall, stop or delay anything, in any way, shape or form. The Democrats in both Houses fighting among themselves is the true cause of congressional delays and hold ups of bills.

      As we have just seen, Republicans in either house, are only along for the ride. They could not stop a fly from passing into law. They couldn't debate over a fly passing into law unless the Democrat Majority wrote a rule allowing Republicans to debate about how flies should not be allowed to become the flying law of the land.

      TARP, Stimulus Bill, Omnibus Spending Bill, Sonya Sotomayor, all were made possible because the Republicans could not stop anything in the Senate any more then they could stop things in the House of Representatives.

      Obama came into office holding Super Majorities in both Houses of Congress, until Scott Brown's 2010 election reduced their Senate lead down to a 'Majority' lead – regardless, the Dems are still very powerful in the Senate.

      This would be very easy to determine by simply counting the number of “Rs” and “Ds” listed beside each name on the U.S. House & Senate Members list website. I'm afraid the word has been taken of many others who's vested interests depend greatly upon just that very thing occurring.

      What distresses me is it only hurts the people who most matter, and, in this case, it's certainly not the politicians.

      Very long, thank you for indulging.


  • JPT

    Well, if the Democrats were to decide to go that route (which seems unlikely), they would face an even greater wipeout in November than the one that already seems certain. I think what we've seen, first with Bush and now with the Democrats in power (particularly embodied by Nancy Pelosi), is a cascading collapse of “Boomer-ism” in all its forms. It is their megalomaniacal, self-aggrandizing overreach that has doomed them on both sides of the aisle. I don't know what the future holds, but I keep going back to Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address for what I see as the clearest expression of the present feeling of the country:

    “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?”

    I think the 4T started on 9/11. I think Bush was an inadequate Boomer who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think Obama and the Democrats, even more clearly, are squarely on the wrong side of history. They are attempting to apply 1930s solutions to the current crisis, and relive their “glory days” of the New Deal, rather than facing reality. And the reality is something that was mentioned in The Fourth Turning 10 years ago – the country is going broke, primarily as a result of entitlement programs that are unsustainable. So the Democrats' solution is to pile another massive entitlement program on top of it? It's lunacy, and the people are vomiting it out as quickly as they swallowed it. The entire Man-made global warming edifice is collapsing with multiple revelations of dishonesty at the U.N., and the Democrats are still bent on imposing “cap and trade” in the middle of the biggest downturn since the Great Depression. They are out of their minds.

    In other words, the country at large is currently breathing a sigh of relief as a direct result of the existence of the filibuster, and the election of Scott Brown. And that includes a whole lot of people who voted for Obama and are now trying frantically to undo what they view as a huge mistake. Whatever the outcome ends up being, what seems clear is that the Boomers already have 2 strikes against them in their bid to reshape the world in their own twisted image.

    • me

      Agree with you JPT, the filibuster did its job… thank god. The senate is suppose to be the chamber that allows red-hot issues cool down and that is exactly the role it played thus far.
      Good post!

  • imp

    That’s how the constitution works and checks and balances. We need the senate, and the minority is valued and not run over. Our constitution protects all citizens. Our job is to protect the constitution.