Lowering the bar for mob rule

LOWERING THE BAR FOR MOB RULE…. About two weeks ago, OMB Director Peter Orszag suggested the administration might pursue major healthcare and energy reforms through the budget reconciliation process. The point would be to make passage far easier — Republicans can vote against reconciliation bills, but they can’t filibuster them.

Apparently, this wasn’t just a trial balloon.

Senior members of the Obama administration are pressing lawmakers to use a shortcut to drive the president’s signature initiatives on health care and energy through Congress without Republican votes, a move that many lawmakers say would fly in the face of President Obama’s pledge to restore bipartisanship to Washington.

Republicans are howling about the proposal to expand health coverage and tax greenhouse gas emissions without their input, warning that it could irrevocably damage relations with the new president.

“That would be the Chicago approach to governing: Strong-arm it through,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who briefly considered joining the Obama administration as commerce secretary. “You’re talking about the exact opposite of bipartisan. You’re talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River.”

Ponder that Gregg quote for a moment. If Obama doesn’t let Republicans have the opportunity to block key pieces of the White House agenda, then Republicans and the president may not get along. As if the minority party has been playing a constructive role up until now.

I know it’s an antiquated notion, but the administration is describing a system in which a bill receives majority support in the House, majority support in the Senate, and then becomes law with the president’s signature. We’ve reached the point at which this very idea isn’t just odd, some find it literally offensive, comparable to mob violence.

What’s more, Roll Call reports today that a block of eight Senate Democratic “moderates” want to help Republicans on this, so the White House will have a harder time passing major energy and healthcare reforms, and a simple majority won’t be enough.

The argument, according to the piece, is that some right-leaning Dems — most notably Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) — believe mandatory supermajorities will make it easier for them to exert influence. If their own party can pass legislation in the House and Senate by majority rule, their efforts to water down bills may not work.

And wouldn’t that be a shame.