Columns » Editorials

Minority rules



Minority rules

Even in what has been a spectacularly dishonest debate over health-care reform, attacks on Sen. Blanche Lincoln by the opponents of reform are notable for their hypocrisy. Anti-reformers fill the air and the letters-to-the-editor page with accusations that Lincoln betrays the principle of majority rule by not publicly adopting what they insist is the people's will. “The vast majority of her constituents are opposed to this not so skillfully disguised takeover of one-sixth of this country's economy,” a typical fulminator fulminates.

The same people condemn Lincoln for supporting majority rule in the Senate — that is, for being the decisive 60th vote to end a Republican filibuster. Strange as it seems — which is very strange — 60 votes were required, an extraordinary majority, just so the Senate could take up the bill. The bill itself reasonably requires only a simple majority of 51 votes for passage. This is pretty much the American way — the side with more votes wins — but offensive to the Far Right, which talks a better game of Americanism than it plays.

A right-wing editorialist was in dudgeon as high as an elephant's eye over Lincoln's vote to let the Senate consider the greatest social-welfare legislation since Medicare: “The U.S. Senate is supposed to be a deliberative body, but there will always be those senators who don't want it to be too deliberative, and are willing to cut off debate — a sure sign they don't have the overwhelming support of the American people for their measure.” “Overwhelming support,” indeed. If “overwhelming support” was required to pass every bill, in any legislative body, few would pass. Most all of the worthy ones would fail. “Overwhelming support” is limited to things like invading countries that the president is mad at.

The requirement of 60 votes to advance any major legislation in the Senate is new, a dramatic procedural change that's been largely ignored — if not approved — by the corporate media. It began only after Republicans lost control of the Senate in the 2006 elections and started filibustering everything. Before then, the filibuster was more the exception than the rule, although any effort toward racial equality brought one on. Now, there's a standing filibuster against progressive legislation. It's an embarrassment to a country that professes to believe in democracy.


Billy Tauzin was there not long ago, and last week it was Ed Bethune. The Clinton School of Public Service is scraping the bottom of the barrel for guest speakers, and when you're scraping a Republican barrel, the bottom is a long way down. We anticipate the uplifting addresses of Joe Wilson and Mark Sanford.      

Add a comment