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The cost of reconciliation

trustGnotgov.JPG

One thing I'd wanted to add to my Newsweek piece but didn't have the space to include is that congressional paralysis -- in this case, the filibuster -- doesn't just lead to inaction and outsourcing, but inefficient action.

Filibusters waste a lot of time because they take a week to break, even when you have more than 60 votes. Resorting to the budget reconciliation process leads to very strange legislative text that is written to avoid parliamentary challenge rather than to achieve its objectives at the lowest possible cost. For instance: Conservatives wanted strong abortion regulations in the health-care bill and liberals wants federally regulated exchanges, but neither made the cut because neither was safe to include in the budget reconciliation process.

The normal calculus around the filibuster is that supporters argue it moderates legislative outcomes (though it has historically been used for purposes we would consider extreme, such as blocking anti-lynching legislation) while opponents say it ensures inaction on problems that need to be solved. I'd say that's incomplete: It encourages Congress to outsource its responsibilities to independent commissions, the executive branch and its associated agencies, and the courts; and it means that Congress operates less efficiently as people try to counter rules that have been pressed into service of obstruction by leaning on rules that lend themselves to majoritarianism (if not to great legislating). Maybe that's how people want Washington to work, but I'm skeptical.

Photo credit: Melina Mara/The Washington Post.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 30, 2010; 3:57 PM ET
Categories:  Congress  
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Comments

Ezra Klein is overrated. I wonder if this fool was saying the same thing about filibusters when the GOP had control of Congress... Reid, Pelosi, Shumer and the rest of the castrati sure were.

Democrats are such idiots, and their five dollar prostitutes in the media, like Ezra Klein, are even worse.

You people are nothing, live with that.

Posted by: TonyV1 | March 30, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

The point, Ezra, is that Congress is not meant to operate "efficiently." The Founding Fathers (and, once upon a time, Liberals) wanted to make it difficult for those who hold power in America to impose their will on the citizenry. If we wanted our government to exercise power "efficiently," we would not need two houses of Congress, and we would not want judicial review, or the veto power. "That government is best which governs least," said Thomas Paine. He's the one who wrote "Common Sense," which seems to be in short supply these days.

Posted by: INTJ | March 31, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Sure thing Ezra. I'll be filing this article...for future use when Dems are in the minority and are using the fillibuster to stop stuff like Bush's plan to privatize social security, etc. Just like I've filed videos of indignant protests by Hillary and Schumer (from 2005) against use of the reconciliation process. You're a Leftist hack and have no credibility; when Reps use a tactic it's baaaad...when Dems do the same thing you're just tickled pink.

Posted by: JohnR22 | March 31, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Still hungover from the HCR passage? Didn't get a chance to write something meaningful or original? Newsflash-we already get talking points from Oblama every day.

Posted by: mgrantham2 | March 31, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

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