by Chris Bodenner

Ezra Klein explores the indirect damage it can cause:

[T]he filibuster is making [Congress] less relevant. If you look back at the financial crisis, the lead response came from the Federal Reserve, because everyone understood that Congress couldn't move quickly enough. If you look at global warming, there's considerable pessimism that the Senate will be able to pass cap-and-trade, and many expect the Environmental Protection Agency to simply embark on its own campaign to regulate carbon emissions. If you look at health care, ideas like the Federal Health Board or the Independent Medicare Advisory Committee are an explicit effort to entrust the continual process of health-care reform to a more agile body than the Congress. On issue after issue, the gridlock encouraged by the filibuster is not simply promoting inaction, but extra-congressional action.

After all, the fact that Congress cannot solve problems does not mean the the problems don't need to be solved. And there are other avenues for action. The judicial system. The executive branch. The Federal Reserve. Ad hoc agencies meant to make the decisions Congress cannot. An angry Congress could block these changes. But the majority doesn't want to block these changes. They want action on these problems, even if they can't be the actors. So they permit these second-best outcomes that address the issues, but do so by shrinking Congress's authority.

That's not a very good situation, of course. It's less accountable, for one thing. And it's less efficient.

Ezra has more great thoughts here. Drum and Yglesias chime in here and here. Harold Meyerson offers some strong parting words:

A more corrosive attack on the first principle of democracy, that of majority rule, is hard to conceive. The increasingly routine use of the filibuster stymies the efficacy of government (in itself a conservative objective) and negates the consequences of elections. [...] When and whether the majority will bestir itself to reestablish democracy's first principle is anybody's guess. Abolishing the filibuster would be a good start -- and perhaps a necessary step to enact to big changes like health reform.

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