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Dave Helling: Senate Democrats play a game we’ve seen before

Columnist Dave Helling writes: It now takes 60 votes to consider virtually anything in the U.S. Senate, which gives the minority party its only real power: to block progress. Republicans filibustered dozens of measures in the last Congress, to the Democrats’ chagrin. Now the situation has flipped. Ending the filibuster would make the majority party more powerful, but perhaps that would be a good thing.
Columnist Dave Helling writes: It now takes 60 votes to consider virtually anything in the U.S. Senate, which gives the minority party its only real power: to block progress. Republicans filibustered dozens of measures in the last Congress, to the Democrats’ chagrin. Now the situation has flipped. Ending the filibuster would make the majority party more powerful, but perhaps that would be a good thing. Bloomberg

I was upset a year ago, when Major League Baseball decided to use instant replay to settle umpiring disputes. I thought the technology would change the game, stretching out disagreements while depriving fans of nose-to-nose arguments on the field.

I like arguing with authority figures. Perhaps you’ve noticed.

As it turns out, I was wrong. I remember thinking in last year’s playoffs that — whatever happened on the field — the Royals would not win or lose based on an umpire’s mistake. That actually made the games more fun to watch.

Has instant replay changed baseball? Yes, but in a good way.

This week, your U.S. Congress will tie itself in knots over a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The procedural hang-up comes courtesy of Senate Democrats, who have used the filibuster to block consideration of the measure.

Republicans need 60 votes to take up the bill. They don’t have that many and at least some Homeland Security responsibilities may grind to a halt as a result. That, in turn, has led some House Republicans to suggest abolishing the filibuster once and for all.

The use of the filibuster has exploded in recent years. It now takes 60 votes to consider virtually anything in the upper chamber of Congress, which gives the minority party its only real power: to block progress.

Minority senators use that power without apology. Republicans gleefully filibustered dozens of measures in the last Congress, to the Democrats’ chagrin. Democrats complained then about Republican obstructionism.

Now the situation has flipped. “Filibuster” is Latin, apparently, for hypocrisy.

Last week, Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, told reporters he wasn’t keen on abolishing the filibuster because it would change the Senate forever. Of course it would. The question is, would ending the filibuster change the Senate in a good way?

The filibuster was invented to encourage compromise between minority and majority interests. It hasn’t done that for years. It’s simply a way for some senators to gum up the works.

Ending the filibuster would make the majority party more powerful, but perhaps that would be a good thing. If the majority had real power, voters could hold its members accountable for their decisions — or the lack of them.

And that, in turn, would lead voters to take Senate elections more seriously.

As seriously as baseball, which last year eliminated on-the-field filibusters.

To reach Dave Helling, call 816-234-4656 or send email to dhelling@kcstar.com.

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