Fear of up-or-down votes gone awry

FEAR OF UP-OR-DOWN VOTES GONE AWRY…. This week, there was increased speculation that the Obama 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.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) blasted the idea, calling it “the Chicago approach to governing.” Gregg added, “You’re talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River.”

A couple of Fox News personalities went even further yesterday.

During the March 20 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, host Sean Hannity falsely claimed that “a parliamentary procedure called reconciliation” would allow the Obama administration to pass legislation “without any Republicans even having an opportunity to vote.” Guest and fellow Fox News host Mike Huckabee replied that this is “horribly dangerous because it really does bypass the entire system of the American government, where we’re supposed to have an honest debate.”

Look, the budget reconciliation process isn’t complicated. Indeed, it’s called “majority rule.” It doesn’t deny Republicans from “even having an opportunity to vote.” Just the opposite is true — every member in both chambers gets to vote, up or down, after a floor debate. When Hannity talks about having an “opportunity” to vote, he means protecting a system in which 41 votes defeat 58 votes.

For that matter, Mike Huckabee believes it undermines the “entire system of the American government” if a piece of legislation passes with the support of congressional majorities. I have no idea what leads him to such a conclusion. Our “entire system of the American government” is not predicated on the notion that Senate super-majorities are necessary to pass any and all substantive pieces of legislation.

But this incredibly foolish rhetoric is nevertheless illustrative of policymaking gone awry. The administration is considering a process 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 is literally offensive — indeed, it’s un-American — to conservatives.