Blame the Senate, Not Obama, for the Energy Failure

More

On the New York Review of Books' blog, Michael Tomasky argues that a nonfunctional Senate killed comprehensive climate legislation and that filibuster reform is the only way to get laws of any kind moving again. Blame Obama for putting health care first or for fumbling climate: "Obama could never conjure up the language to sweep the right's disingenuous 'questions' about climate science to the side," Tomasky admits, "and he did not seize the post-BP moment as he might have. But the deeper explanation lies with the Senate":

The rules of that body, combined with the collapse, in our hyper-partisan age, of the practices that used to maintain Senate collegiality, have created a situation in which a supermajority of sixty votes is required to pass anything. This is the so-called "cloture" vote, which is not a vote on the merits of a piece of legislation per se, but a vote to end debate and bring a matter to the floor for a final vote. The cloture rule has existed since 1917, but it is only in the last thirty years, and most intensively in the last fifteen or so, that the cloture process has come to apply to virtually all matters. Since sixty votes are required to end debate, a minority of forty-one senators can block the will of fifty-nine; a minority, in other words, can function as an effective majority, threatening to filibuster any legislation it does not support.

The solution, according to Tomasky is not going to please either party:

Until this fever breaks (which could be four years or thirty-four, who knows), the passage of large-scale domestic legislation will be well-nigh impossible. And yes, reform of the filibuster rule would benefit the Republicans when they have power, but to many observers, and an increasing number of Democratic senators such as Iowa's Tom Harkin, New York's Charles Schumer, and New Mexico's Tom Udall, a Senate that passes liberal legislation at certain times and then conservative legislation at other times is better than a Senate that does nothing.

Read the full story at the New York Review of Books.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In