‘Usually necessary’

‘USUALLY NECESSARY’…. Christopher Orr hates descriptions like this one. I don’t blame him.

Some Democrats are urging Obama to cease courting Republicans and to attempt to pass a Senate bill solely with Democratic votes, to preserve the public option in its full form. But that would require Democrats in the Senate to use a legislative maneuver known as reconciliation. A reconciliation measure cannot be filibustered, so the Senate could approve health reform with 51 votes, rather than the 60 usually necessary to pass legislation in the chamber. [emphasis added]

Some acknowledgement of history would be nice, at least once in a while. Perhaps something along the lines of, “so the Senate could approve health reform with 51 votes, the traditional Senate standard before supermajorities became necessary on all legislation in recent years.” As Orr put it:

Who can forget that constitutional supermajority requirement, which can only be overcome by the extraordinary “maneuvers” of partisans intent on subverting the process and inflicting socialist ideas such as majority rule upon the nation.

No one expects the Post to offer as much context as, say, this Norm Ornstein article on the Senate’s increasing dysfunction from back in the spring, but a few words clarifying that “usually” is shorthand for “since Republicans found themselves in the minority and decided to filibuster pretty much everything” would be nice.

I’d just like to see some debate about this within the political establishment. The Senate functioned for generations with majority rule. Recently, that changed. Now, most of the political world simply accepts mandatory supermajorities on all legislation as the routine, uncontroversial norm.

This should at least be open to some discussion. The typical American probably has no idea that if the Senate held a vote on an important piece of legislation, and the vote was 57 for to 43 against, the side with 43 votes wins.

Is the country comfortable with this? Is the switch from the traditional American legislative process a positive development or a negative one? Can we at least have a debate about it?

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