Friday, February 15, 2008

David Broder's "Bipartisanship"

I pointed this out yesterday in comments at No More Mister Nice Blog, but it bears highlighting here again for the simple fact of how Broder both categorized the urgency of approving the recently passed economic stimulus bill with how unsightfully The Dean depicted the bill's obstacles in the U.S. Senate.

After depicting the stimulus legislation as desperately needed to relieve the "staggering economy", Broder pens this 'graph:

Bypassing the usual committee process, she [Pelosi] and Boehner negotiated the legislation with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and quickly got it passed on the floor. The Senate Finance Committee wrote its own version and, when that failed by one vote to win the 60 needed for passage, Majority Leader Harry Reid quickly accepted the suggestion of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that the most vital parts of the revised plan be added to the House bill by amendment. That was done 91 to 6.

I wish Broder had given some explanation as to why the Senate legislation "needed" 60 votes to pass, before the wonderful, full of love gift of bipartisanship was bestowed on the process, particularly since as Broder noted, the economy is simply "staggering" and desperately needs relief. I have in fact emailed Broder that very question.

In case Broder writes back, and for you dear reader, here is such an explanation for the 60 vote requirement:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Republicans on Wednesday narrowly blocked a Democratic-backed economic stimulus plan valued at about $157 billion that would have provided benefits for the long-term unemployed and expanded proposed tax rebates to include retirees and disabled veterans.

The legislation, aimed at averting a U.S. recession, was offered as an alternative to a bill backed by President George W. Bush that passed the House of Representatives last week. The $146 billion House measure would give individuals a one-time $600 payment and couples $1,200 plus $300 per child.

Backers fell one short of the needed 60 in the 100-member chamber, although the final count was 58-41 when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid switched to no in a procedural move that allows him to bring up the bill again.

It was not immediately clear what the sharply divided Senate would do next. It could vote on the House-passed bill or other amendments to expand the economic stimulus legislation.

Most Senate Republicans opposed the expansion of jobless benefits, although many favor adding to the House package cash payments to senior citizens and disabled veterans.

So, the Senate bill actually passed by a pretty large margin, 58-41, but Senate Republicans "blocked" the legislation by keeping the "yes" votes below 60. Which again brings us to the question of why 60 votes are "needed" in the 100-member chamber. Well, while the article helpfully points out that it was in fact Senate Republicans who "blocked" passage of the bill--something Broder failed to note--this act of blocking has historically been referred to as "filibustering", a procedure that has been invoked a record number of times this Congressional session but which has gone strangely unremarked upon by our village media, which in prior Congressional sessions, when Republican executives have occupied the White House and Republicans controlled Congress, did do all in their power to point out that if anything the President wanted didn't get rubber-stamped by the House of People's Deputies, Democratic "obstructionists" relying on that very bad and anitiquidated procedure known as the really evil filibuster were to blame. Since Democrats have controlled Congress, however, the terms "filibuster" and "obstructionist" have dropped from the village media lexicon.


ahab said...

If I'm not mistaken, the one absent Senator on this vote was none other than...John McCain. The same John McCain who claimed on the campaign trail that he supported the relief effort.

Bulworth said...

How appropriate