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Posted at 9:22 AM ET, 01/19/2011

House Republicans discover that the Senate doesn't work very well

By Ezra Klein

Thumbnail image for breakingthefilibuster.jpg

The traditional definition of chutzpah is "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan." I think it's time for an update:

Ahead of the vote Wednesday, House Republican leaders pressed a new line of attack, accusing Democrats of thwarting the will of the people by not committing to give the bill an up-or-down vote in the Senate.

Seriously? After mounting a record-breaking number of filibusters in recent years and screaming bloody murder when Democrats sought extremely modest changes in the practice, Republicans are now demanding up-or-down votes in the Senate? This is like Barack Obama complaining that John Boehner gets too much attention for his speeches.

By Ezra Klein  | January 19, 2011; 9:22 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Next: It's not on the level


Is B'rer Rabbit raising his head?

At present, legislative hubris may preclude outright repeal of the PPACA; however, the hubris which might preclude repeal cannot force funding. If the mandates remain but the subsidies do not, who favors the mandates, particularly as the effect of such mandates escalates in the run-up to the elections two years away? That is, are rank-and-file SEIU members prepared to pay the full cost of the PPACA's mandates -- is ANY ordinary voter willing to pay the costs?

Advocates of the Obama/Pelosi PPACA have painted themselves into a corner. When I brought this topic up a while back (two years ago) I was informed that it was a non-issue, since PPACA proponents would certainly be rewarded at the polls and would, therefore, control the purse-strings during the current two-year Congress. PPACA proponents were provably incorrect about voter response to passage of the PPACA: I'd assert that they are equally wrong about the cost and potential effectiveness of the PPACA. But I'd also assert that PPACA proponents are a rather self-absorbed bunch who will never be able to admit error and defeat. Given that the winning strategy for PPACA proponents is retreat and that PPACA proponents are incapable of the humility which enables such retreat, PPACA proponents will ultimately fail yet again.

Sun Tzu wisely noted that "The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom."

The People, the President, and electorally vulnerable Senators gain by retracting the wildly unpopular portions of the PPACA. So what's really the issue -- other than hubris? Can John Kerry (for example) bring himself to productively compromise?

Posted by: rmgregory | January 19, 2011 9:37 AM | Report abuse

@ rmgregory | January 19, 2011 9:37 AM :
Color me confused. Your quote from Sun Tzu seems to argue against your point. At the very least, isn't it possible that the elected leaders of the country decided to, well, lead rather than be driven by the changeable polls? That they continue their course not out of hubris but because they think this is how they can "protect [their] country and do good service for [their] sovereign [in this case, the people]"? As politicians, their instinct must be to abandon the unpopular and embrace the trendy, because that is what (as the midterms show) voters reward. Yet they stand fast.

Or are you proposing we move toward a direct democracy wherein policy is made through polling?

Posted by: gilroy0 | January 19, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Senate dems should offer up down vote if house GOP offers up down vote to restore Clinton tax rates on people making, say, $500,000 year.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 19, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, you are way too smart to be surprised.

Posted by: RZ100 | January 19, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

" isn't it possible that the elected leaders of the country decided to, well, lead rather than be driven by the changeable polls? "

If that is the case then they have no reason to complain when Democrats do it.

Posted by: y2josh_us | January 19, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

HAH! Great catch!


Posted by: chrisgaun | January 19, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

This has nothing to do with a filibuster. Harry Reid isn't even going to bring it up for a vote.

Posted by: krazen1211 | January 19, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

The Republicans need to replace their symbol. A white rabbit with a pocket watch seems ever so much more appropriate these days.

Posted by: DonAlbertson | January 19, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

I can't believe the Democrats are just the party of "No". Why can't they compromise with Republicans? Why do they insist on standing in the way of the 'progress' the GOP is attempting?

I mean, anyone reading Ezra's columns the past two years knows number of bills jammed through the House = 'progress'. And anyone brazen enough to stand in the way and say "hold up, we don't agree" is just a hateful person who doesn't want our country to 'progress'.

Funny how the story changes when the shoe is on the other foot....

Posted by: dbw1 | January 19, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

So Ezra are you saying that you support the Democrats not allowing the House passed Obamacare repeal law to come to a vote in the Senate? If so that seems pretty contradictory from your previous position that chastised Republicans for filibustering Democrat legislation. At least the Democrats got to bring their legislation up for a vote in the Senate.

Posted by: RobT1 | January 19, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

the issue here is the GOP is complaining that Reid is doing what they so successfully did for the last 4 years. Namely stop anything they didn't like.
Therein lies the hypocrisy being commented on.
The Senate Dems are in the majority, not the minority, so yes they get to make the decisions. The GOP made them through obstruction from the minority. A very different situation.

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 19, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

rmgregory asks "Can John Kerry (for example) bring himself to productively compromise?" is very easily answered. Senator Kerry, contrary to right wing stereotypes does work hard to find common ground.

As Chair of the Small Business committee, he and Snowe crafted many bills that found a common ground between the two parties. Kerry and Snowe were also credited in 2007 with being the tw who found a compromise that allowed the first increase in CAFE standards in two decades.

All last year, he worked to get a bill that would deal with climate change. He spoke of the bill containing many things that were "outside the comfort zone" of each of the three legislators leading the effort on it. It ultimately failed, but it was not due to Senator Kerry being unwilling to compromise.

You could also look at the hearings he has in the SFRC. Like Lugar, he is courteous and respectful to all the members of the committee. If you watch the NEW START treaty floor debate, you would have seen a willingness to work with Republicans and an immense amount of patience with a few Republicans that repeated things that were already debunked. (Senator McCain spoke of Kerry's masterful handling of the hearing and Senator Corker spoke of Kerry's enormous patience.)

Your throw away comment on Kerry at the end of your post shows a bit of the problem. I am a liberal Democrat, who has found CSPAN's coverage of the Senate fascinating. It is harder to fall for the partisan smears of various legislators if you actually watch them.

I suspect that the REAL Kerry and the REAL other Senators are more capable of finding common ground than people on the opposites sides currently believe. One thing that might help is if the media on each side did not cheer the outrageous extreme (Grayson or Bachmann) but instead praised those working for the difficult solutions needed.

Posted by: kpc1 | January 20, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

How many billions of dollars will it take to repeal the healthcare changes?

what EXACTLY is being proposed to replace what is being repealed?

all i've seen is "politicians" laughing when asked that question, as if the question is a joke.

what EXACTLY is going to replace what is being repealed AND how will it benefit WE THE PEOPLE?

time and time and time again, i see certain "politicians" proposing item after item that benefit all kinds of big businesses and, at the same time, take a huge dump on WE THE PEOPLE.

so, other than a lot of lies, smugness, and more lies -- what is going to replace what is being repealed?

if they don't have something, in writing, showing exactly what they are going to put in place, then WE THE PEOPLE have to expect that it'll just be more of the same -- to hell with WE THE PEOPLE and here's lots of taxpayer money for you, our big business masters.

Posted by: Dwayne_H | January 21, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

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