Senate not the special snowflake it thinks it is
Jon Chait punctures the pretensions of the U.S. Senate:
Most Democratic Senators, especially older ones, are institutionalists. They believe in the Senate as a rarified place of bipartisanship and thoughtful compromise. They also have come to value rules that increase the power of individual Senators, who are like Gods in Washington compared to mere members of the House.
In reality, the Senate does not function in anything like the idealized way that Senators imagine. It's the House with a supermajority requirement (except for the budget.) ... the old rare use of the filibuster was an unstable equilibrium. You can't have a competitive system where one side can use its most powerful weapon anytime it chooses but is expected not to do it that often. If baseball teams were allowed to deploy two extra fielders any time they wanted, but were expected to save the move for moments when they really needed a stop, how long would it take before every team always deployed 11 fielders?
When you talk about how the Senate rules are being misused, the quick rejoinder is often that the problem isn't the rules, but polarization and bad behavior and opportunistic leadership. We don't need to change the rules, some say, we need to change how they're used. Unfortunately, I've not yet heard of a proposal that would do this.
July 28, 2010; 2:52 PM ET
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