Calling Obstruction By Its True Name

by Stuart Shapiro

The requirement that you get 60 votes to pass any legislation in the Senate is now being accepted throughout our political culture.  James Fallows rails against headlines that claim that President Obama’s job plan lost in the United States Senate.

The subhead and the rest of the article make clear that more Senators voted for the bill than against it — 50 to 49. It would have been 51-48 except for a parliamentary ruse by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who switched to a “No” vote so that he would later be able to call it up for reconsideration.

We have gone so far in recent years toward routinizing the once-rare requirement for a 60-vote Senate “supermajority” into an obstacle for every nomination and every bill that our leading newspaper can say that a measure “fails” when it gets more Yes than No votes.

I still dream of the day when the Majority Leader forces opponents to actually filibuster a popular measure like the jobs bill instead of letting them get away with a cloture vote.  Until that day though, at least the media can make clear that a majority wanted to move forward on the debate and the minority is opposed to up or down votes.

About Stuart Shapiro

Stuart Shapiro Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.

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