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James Fallows notes:

Fifty-nine senators, representing (as explained here) some 63 percent of the American public, accompanied by a large House majority and a president recently elected with 70 million votes, cannot enact changes in the nation's health-care system that have been debated for decades. A 59-41 margin is not enough for a change of this magnitude.

Five Justices of the Supreme Court, outvoting their four colleagues, can work a fundamental change in election law that goes far beyond the issues presented by the parties to the case. (Among many accounts, see these two on Slate, here and here, and National Journal here.) Courts always have the option of deciding cases narrowly or broadly. The breadth of this one, reaching far beyond the merits of the case so as to enact the majority Justices' views, is staggering even to a non-lawyer like me. A one-person margin is enough for a change of this magnitude.

In the least accountable branch of government, the narrowest margin prevails; in our elected legislative branch, substantial majorities are neutered.

Also worth noting is that Scott Brown got 51 percent of the vote in Massachusetts, not 60 percent. But his bare majority is being sold as a landslide and his 41-member Republican minority is being sold as stronger than the 59-member Democratic majority. If Brown's election had played by Senate rules, he wouldn't have won.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 22, 2010; 10:36 AM ET
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Democrats are going to get a drubbing in November.

Their utter failure in passing Healthcare Reform is leaving a lot of us in the base absolutely demoralized and in disgust at them. They're friggin idiots if they haven't realized that not passing HCR is an unmittigated disaster with regards to their base.

So now they not only have to contend with a fully energized Republican base, they have to also contend with a base that is totally demoralized and will refuse to support them, and with the candidates x (brought to you by ExxonMobil) and candidate y (brought to you by Humana) from the Republican side.

They just waved the freaking juiciest steak ever in front of our faces, only to pull it at the last minute for no good reason. And I won't get a chance for another steak in what? Another 30-50 freaking years?

Do they really think the base will be happy? Do they really think suddenly talking up Wall Street will do them any good? I really don't give a damn! I want my freaking steak!

Posted by: JERiv | January 22, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Its not enough to pass a bill that is politically so unpopular that congressmen are afraid that they will lose their jobs if they pass it.

The republicans do not think they will get any retribution for voting against this bad bill- democrats think that they will lose their jobs if they do vote for it. It doesn't matter how many people you ahve on your side if people dislike the bill and will vote you out of office if you support it and will not penalize the other side for opposing it.

Posted by: spotatl | January 22, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Ezra- Perhaps you should entertain the notion that Pelosi didn't have the votes to pass a bill even BEFORE the Mass election. Just would help explain why they've so quickly abandoned the Senate bill now.

The 1 Repub (Cao) wouldn't have voted for it again. Dems lost 1 member who resigned for another job. Did they really have all the moderates who supported it the first time locked up for the next vote??

Posted by: MBP2 | January 22, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

The ridiculous media narrative is the symptom. The disease is Democratic party fecklessness. You're throwing a tantrum about the unfairness of the narrative, which only exists because the Democrats and the president were unprepared and uninterested in pushing a narrative of their own.

Posted by: constans | January 22, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

The public turned on reform by fall out of sheer exhaustion and revulsion. All along many of us recognized that the 60-vote math was ephemeral and that Pelosi would have a very tough time in the House, which was why, contra Ezra, we advocated for a better bill via reconciliation.

Just you wait until the GOP captures the Senate; they'll pull the nuclear option in nano-seconds.

As angry as I am at the Dem Congresscritters, the lion's share of blame must lie with the head of the Democratic party, whose slavish devotion to his own myth created the conditions for the paralysis we see today.

Posted by: scarlota | January 22, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

James Fallows lament has been echoed by conservatives, when the shoe has been on the other foot and court decisions have not gone their way, and the Democratic minority obstructed Republican legislation.

But how much is going to change? If the makeup of the court changes in the future, then liberals and progressives may benefit from 1 vote majorities. Similarly, at some point to Republicans are going to have the majority in the senate and house again, and probably sooner rather than later. Then the power of the minority will be the Democrats to wield. Do they really want to take that away?

Frankly, as much as I am glad healthcare reform has been largely stopped, and as happy as I am that Cap and Trade seems increasingly more unlikely . . . I have to agree with Ezra on the super-majority requirement. Senate rules should be changed, and there should be simple majority rule (and something less than that, frankly, for confirmation of appointments to cabinet positions and the judiciary). I'm all for gridlock, but it shouldn't be because there is a supermajority requirement to get anything done. The gridlock should be between the house, the senate, and the executive branch.

Despite the fact I like the current outcome, I think the long run consequences of their being a super-majority requirement in the senate for almost everything is more negative than positive.

A super-majority should only be required for tax increases. ;)

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 22, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

*A super-majority should only be required for tax increases.*

Look at how that turned out for California.

I lived in California for a bit, and I saw that coming, and now I see the federal government starting to reflect the same dynamic. No good comes of that.

Posted by: constans | January 22, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Practically Obama and Democratic Leadership are sitting on the 'liquidation board' of Progressive cause and in the end of this Republic.

Jan 22, 2010 will go as the worst day in this Republic in long time to come (with Supreme court ruling adding equally flammable decision).

Posted by: umesh409 | January 22, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

The frustrating part for me is the pervasiveness of the collapse of the party. If it were a couple vulnerable or wishy-washy Dems quaking about Scott Brown's win, I could handle it. It sucks to have lost that election. What bothers me is that there's not a core group of Democrats, even in safe seats, who are getting out there and making noise about the fact that this is simply one election and 100,000 MA voters don't get to control the national agenda.

And frankly, I've defended President Obama through all the tough compromises made to get this bill where it is now. It's immensly disheartening to see them back away from this like they have.

Where's the leadership?

Posted by: MosBen | January 22, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse's got electolytes.

Posted by: chris_bunce | January 22, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

And the right-wing howls over the gigantic reach of activist judges.


Posted by: RalfW | January 22, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Prop 8 in CA was passed by just over 50% of the people and Republicans across the nation said it was legal and proper for 50.X% of the people to make decisions for everyone else.

If health care doesn't get passed, it's because Democrats have deceived us all along and never wanted it passed.

It should not have taken over a year to just get where we are now.

In the first month in office, Obama should have handed over his plan to Congress and said pass it NOW.

It is clear to me Dem leadership never wanted to enact health care (and that includes Obama). They ping-ponged the bills between the house and senate, looking for some to delay passage so they could blame it on anything except their secret desire not to pass it.

I would not be surprised if the Dems engineered the loss to Brown so that they could shirk their responsibility to govern by saying they didn't have 60 votes in the Senate. Interestingly, the Dems never really fought hard for Franken to become the 60th vote.

The Democrats are FRAUDS.

Posted by: Lomillialor | January 22, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

As I've been pointing out, you don't have 59 senators. You never did, but Reid managed to bribe enough of them and bully enough of them. And bribe a lot of other special interest groups as well. And the tent was still too tight to cover all those Senators and Representatives; one good pull and they fell out on all sides.
There are not 60 progressive Senators; not even close. I'm sorry, but you need to find the bill that fits the group, and you're currently way off. Start again.

Posted by: MikeR4 | January 22, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

On the comment about the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling I say welcome to the conservative world of no accountability judges that "find" a right to gay marriage or abortion in the constitution where no right existed before.

Posted by: RobT1 | January 22, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, whether you like it or not, getting 51% of the vote in MA is a landslide if you consider this from a historical perspective. I know you're upset that someone with an (R) after his name won, but you'll get over it at some point.

Posted by: novalfter | January 22, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"Fifty-nine senators, representing (as explained here) some 63 percent of the American public, accompanied by a large House majority and a president recently elected with 70 million votes, cannot enact changes in the nation's health-care system that have been debated for decades."

This is simply wrong, as evidenced by the passage of Medicare Part D and the SCHIP expansion in recent years.

Posted by: tomtildrum | January 22, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, if you have principles, then you should wait for the next Republican majority in the Senate, and then support eliminating the filibuster.

Not to teach you any kind of a lesson, but because that is the true price of majority rule -- and the only way for you to prove that you're really willing to pay that price.

Posted by: cpurick | January 23, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Ezra has supported putting a delay on the elimination of the filibuster--such as 6 years--when it's very likely there might be a Republican majority in the Senate. He just thinks it's a bad idea in general, even though it will help Republican's advance their agenda in the future.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 24, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

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