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Our View: About time for simple majority rule

Simple majority

Hypocrisy flourishes in Senate but this vote make sense

Last week Senate Democrats finally made good on their threat to end the filibuster power of the Republican minority.

As a result, it will be much harder for the minority, or even a minority of the minority, to block votes on presidential appointments, especially vacancies for judges in federal courts.

This is good news, although fraught with enough hypocrisy, charges and countercharges to drive one of those federal nominees into another line of work.

No question about it, Democrats and Republicans both have abused the 60-vote threshold for nominees -- and for moving legislation. Both have been pious in defending it as minorities, both inclined to end it as majorities stymied by the opposition.

There's nothing wrong with the Senate having rules and understandings to slow deliberations down. Everyone likes to invoke the founders and their thinking, and clearly the Senate was created to be less responsive to the popular will than the House, a wise check on passions of the moment.

But when both parties engage in blocking so many presidential appointments, the Senate goes from deliberate to dysfunctional.

Those critical, or at least skeptical, of the Senate Democrats' action fear that more rancor will follow, that the Democrats have endangered what good will remains and the power of unwritten rules that have guided the Senate for decades.

But to most of us citizens out here, it looks like the Senate needs a shake-up, in part because members have failed to observe their own unwritten rules. Recently Republicans have upped the ante on the number of appointments held up -- a trend that would have tried the patience of one Alaska Republican. As the story in Friday's Daily News pointed out, the late Sen. Ted Stevens was opposed to the filibuster for holding up nominations, especially for judges. That's because this political game obstructs the business of government and the courts, and violates an old given that the executive -- whether Republican or Democrat -- gets wide latitude for most appointments. Stevens understood that.

Republicans are angry now. No doubt Democrats will have their turn.

With simple majority votes, we'll have less obstruction on every appointment. It's about time.

BOTTOM LINE: Self-interest is obvious in new Senate rules but so is the national interest in a more rational version of advise and consent.

 



Anchorage