What to Do with the Senate?

I know that progressives have been pushing for an end to the filibuster for the last 12-18 months. I don’t know? I’ve been thinking about it and I still don’t know. On one hand, you have the graph below.

It is clear that the Republicans have obstructed progress/legislation at every turn. Their whole purpose was to show America that the Democrats and President Barack Obama could not get anything done. They were rewarded with a landslide victory in the House. But, to get back to my point, the filibuster is a tool the minority. It is supposed to be like that lever that is behind the glass that you pull in case of fire. It is clear that the Republicans have misused the filibuster but in changing the rules could the Democrats regret the change in several years? When the Democrats are in the minority and Republicans are pushing for yet another tax cut for the rich or a bailout for Wall Street which leaves main street behind or the return of the Patriot act, will the Democrats regret the change?

From Ezra Klein:

And if we don’t do anything, I’d argue, our political system will continue to disappoint. The polls — both in the abstract and in the judgments of the lame-duck session — continue to show that the American people want the two parties to join together to get things done. But the filibuster is a powerful incentive to do just the opposite: It gives the minority the power to make the majority fail at its job, and now that both Democrats and Republicans have realized that kneecapping the other is the quickest way back into power, it’s the strategy that they turn to first. The lame-duck session was so productive precisely because the congressional session that preceded it was less productive than a supermajority of members thought it should’ve been. That’s an indictment of the system, not an argument in its favor.

You might say, however, that the American people don’t just want action. They want bipartisan action. To some degree, I think that’s right. When the two sides go to war over this or that bill, it turns off the public. But the theory that the filibuster encourages bipartisanship gets it exactly backwards. The START treaty, which first looked unlikely to pass, and then barely got the required votes, and then suddenly got many more than the required votes once its success appeared assured, shows something important about the political system: For the minority, the first-best outcome is defeating the majority, but the second-best outcome might be working to make the bill better and help it pass.