Obama's second term: Abolish checks on his power

Ed Lasky
From today's Wall Street Journal column on Barack Obama's campaign:

The president views a second term in some ways as a second chance, an opportunity to approach the office differently, according to close aides. He would like to tackle issues such as climate change, immigration, education and filibuster reform.

Clearly, Barack Obama still doesn't care what the American people want or think. Climate change is not a top concern for Americans. Already, efforts by the Obama administration on this topic have killed jobs and slowed growth and hiring in any number of industries (coal, chemicals, oil and gas) but in a second term he will continue to push through regulations and rules interpretations that will accomplish much of what he was unable to do in Congress. He will have more "flexibility." He has pushed out to 2013 decisions on issues such as the XL pipeline and EPA regulations precisely for this electoral reason.

Immigration reform is a concern - but again it is not one of the top issues either. Education is just a signal that should he be reelected teachers and teacher unions will have hit pay dirt.

But it is the latter item on his to do list that should raise a red flag: filibuster reform.

We know by now what Obama means when he uses the word "reform." It means revolution.

Filibusters are methods in the Senate that can be used to slow down or stop the passing of major legislation (apart from budgets and confirmations). Senate rules permit a senator, or senators, to speak for as long as they wish, unless "three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn (60 out of 100 senators) bring debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXII.

From Wikipedia:

According to the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Ballin (1892), changes to Senate rules could be achieved by a simple majority, but only on the 1st day of the session in January or March. Nevertheless, under current Senate rules, a rule change itself could be filibustered, with two-thirds of those senators present and voting (as opposed to the normal three-fifths of those sworn) needing to vote to break the filibuster.[44] Despite this written requirement, the possibility exists that the filibuster could be changed by majority vote, but only on the 1st day of the session in January or March, using the so-called nuclear option, also sometimes called the constitutional option by proponents.

Actually, the nuclear option was triggered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last year - not that many in the media noticed the flouting of Senate decorum (Reid is not known for decorum: Obama is "light-skinned" with "no Negro dialect unless he wants one"; Romney is a tax cheat; his insults and accusations regarding George Bush make those made by Barack Obama look like terms of affection).

The Washington Post columnist Marc Theissen took note of the action last year  in "Harry Reid's Nuclear Blunder  "

On Thursday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered the so-called nuclear option - unilaterally changing Senate rules by a simple majority vote to stop the minority from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments. It's the same tactic the majority would use to undercut the minority's ability to filibuster. And that's why it's called "nuclear" - it dramatically alters the balance of power between the majority and minority. It is not a step to be taken lightly.

What great matter drove Reid to push the nuclear button? Apparently Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) was threatening to force a vote on the original version of President Obama's jobs bill, to show how few Democrats were willing to support it. In other words, Reid invoked the nuclear option to avoid a political embarrassment for his party.

While filibusters can be used for political purposes such as the incident above, they can also be used to slow or stop or force compromise on legislation that might be too extreme. Usually, the mere threat of a filibuster can bring opposing parties to the table to work out a deal to foreclose filibusters. George Washington characterized the Senate as "the saucer into which we pour legislation to cool" and the filibuster rule is one way to prevent extremist legislation from being passed by a simple majority.

And this is why President Obama in a second term wants to "reform" its use. Basically, he would like to weaken if not abolish the use of a filibuster. Since it is entirely possible that the Senate may remain in Harry Reid's capable hands, Obama and his fellow travelers in the Senate would have even more power to trample on the rights of Republican representatives of the people to have their voiced heard and their votes counted.

All too often over the last few years when Democrats have seen their agenda stymied in Senate they complain about the unfair use of the filibuster and how the filibuster is 'undemocratic". Of course, when they are in the minority and are able to exercise it their voices are stilled.

Of course, this puts his none- too-believable statement of a few days ago that in a second term he would be able to work better with the GOP since the election would be over and Republicans would therefore not "play politics" and be less obstructionist.

Putting the rhetoric aside (something everyone should do when Obama speaks), what he actually meant was he will work to do away with the power Republicans have with the filibuster.

Needless to say, this goal of Obama's is a profound strike against democracy. Not satisfied with his use of recess powers, executive orders, signing statements, rules and regulatory interpretation and formulation, he wants to trample once more on the rights of the American people to object and slow down if not prevent his agenda from coming to fruition.

One hopes that the Republicans will make more use of Obama's zeal to accumulate power-something that so far they have been leery of addressing.


From today's Wall Street Journal column on Barack Obama's campaign:

The president views a second term in some ways as a second chance, an opportunity to approach the office differently, according to close aides. He would like to tackle issues such as climate change, immigration, education and filibuster reform.

Clearly, Barack Obama still doesn't care what the American people want or think. Climate change is not a top concern for Americans. Already, efforts by the Obama administration on this topic have killed jobs and slowed growth and hiring in any number of industries (coal, chemicals, oil and gas) but in a second term he will continue to push through regulations and rules interpretations that will accomplish much of what he was unable to do in Congress. He will have more "flexibility." He has pushed out to 2013 decisions on issues such as the XL pipeline and EPA regulations precisely for this electoral reason.

Immigration reform is a concern - but again it is not one of the top issues either. Education is just a signal that should he be reelected teachers and teacher unions will have hit pay dirt.

But it is the latter item on his to do list that should raise a red flag: filibuster reform.

We know by now what Obama means when he uses the word "reform." It means revolution.

Filibusters are methods in the Senate that can be used to slow down or stop the passing of major legislation (apart from budgets and confirmations). Senate rules permit a senator, or senators, to speak for as long as they wish, unless "three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn (60 out of 100 senators) bring debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXII.

From Wikipedia:

According to the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Ballin (1892), changes to Senate rules could be achieved by a simple majority, but only on the 1st day of the session in January or March. Nevertheless, under current Senate rules, a rule change itself could be filibustered, with two-thirds of those senators present and voting (as opposed to the normal three-fifths of those sworn) needing to vote to break the filibuster.[44] Despite this written requirement, the possibility exists that the filibuster could be changed by majority vote, but only on the 1st day of the session in January or March, using the so-called nuclear option, also sometimes called the constitutional option by proponents.

Actually, the nuclear option was triggered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last year - not that many in the media noticed the flouting of Senate decorum (Reid is not known for decorum: Obama is "light-skinned" with "no Negro dialect unless he wants one"; Romney is a tax cheat; his insults and accusations regarding George Bush make those made by Barack Obama look like terms of affection).

The Washington Post columnist Marc Theissen took note of the action last year  in "Harry Reid's Nuclear Blunder  "

On Thursday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered the so-called nuclear option - unilaterally changing Senate rules by a simple majority vote to stop the minority from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments. It's the same tactic the majority would use to undercut the minority's ability to filibuster. And that's why it's called "nuclear" - it dramatically alters the balance of power between the majority and minority. It is not a step to be taken lightly.

What great matter drove Reid to push the nuclear button? Apparently Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) was threatening to force a vote on the original version of President Obama's jobs bill, to show how few Democrats were willing to support it. In other words, Reid invoked the nuclear option to avoid a political embarrassment for his party.

While filibusters can be used for political purposes such as the incident above, they can also be used to slow or stop or force compromise on legislation that might be too extreme. Usually, the mere threat of a filibuster can bring opposing parties to the table to work out a deal to foreclose filibusters. George Washington characterized the Senate as "the saucer into which we pour legislation to cool" and the filibuster rule is one way to prevent extremist legislation from being passed by a simple majority.

And this is why President Obama in a second term wants to "reform" its use. Basically, he would like to weaken if not abolish the use of a filibuster. Since it is entirely possible that the Senate may remain in Harry Reid's capable hands, Obama and his fellow travelers in the Senate would have even more power to trample on the rights of Republican representatives of the people to have their voiced heard and their votes counted.

All too often over the last few years when Democrats have seen their agenda stymied in Senate they complain about the unfair use of the filibuster and how the filibuster is 'undemocratic". Of course, when they are in the minority and are able to exercise it their voices are stilled.

Of course, this puts his none- too-believable statement of a few days ago that in a second term he would be able to work better with the GOP since the election would be over and Republicans would therefore not "play politics" and be less obstructionist.

Putting the rhetoric aside (something everyone should do when Obama speaks), what he actually meant was he will work to do away with the power Republicans have with the filibuster.

Needless to say, this goal of Obama's is a profound strike against democracy. Not satisfied with his use of recess powers, executive orders, signing statements, rules and regulatory interpretation and formulation, he wants to trample once more on the rights of the American people to object and slow down if not prevent his agenda from coming to fruition.

One hopes that the Republicans will make more use of Obama's zeal to accumulate power-something that so far they have been leery of addressing.