How much gridlock is too much?

By Michael Glantz on February 19, 2013

Left to Right: Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Harry Reid (D-NV)
(ABC News)


I wrote an article a few months back about the problems in Washington D.C. with the filibuster. I wrote about the possible ways to fix this problem by changing the filibuster into something closer to what it was originally intended to be. Those possible fixes included limiting the number of times one could filibuster and forcing the senator behind the filibuster to get up and talk like James Stewart did in the famous scene from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Many Democrats supported those changes when they were being considered and Republicans were adamant that the Democrats would regret making such a rule change when they were again the minority party. But being that the Democrats are the current majority it seemed all but assured that the filibuster reforms would go into place. Disappointingly, those changes didn’t go into place. Instead Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made what they referred to as a ‘hand shake’ agreement. Harry Reid claimed he just wasn’t ready to get rid of the sixty vote threshold but assured the nation that business in the Senate would speed up.

So far that isn’t the case.

In fact, the abuse of the filibuster has only gotten worse. In a rare and surprising move, Senate Republicans have decided to force a cloture vote, a vote that ends filibusters, on Obama’s nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense. A cabinet nominee has never failed to be confirmed because of a filibuster and Republicans don’t seem eager to be the first to block a nominee in such a way, saying they would relent to a simple majority vote later in the month. Of course, a simple majority vote will absolutely result in Hagel being confirmed so really all Republicans have done is leave America waiting for a new secretary of defense to take over for the old one, Leon Panetta, who really wants to get out of Washington D.C.

What is the point of all this?

Why do Senators of both parties constantly filibuster bills and nominees that don’t exactly fit their political ideologies? Isn’t the point of our entire government to be a system of checks and balances that brings the ideology of the party in power closer to the middle while still moving forward? Why is it that senators think that even though their party may not be in power, they should stop everything the other party tries until they cave in and allow the minority party’s will to become law? To me, that seems like exactly the opposite of the way it’s supposed to work. I think every American should be upset about the dysfunction in Washington because, let’s be honest with ourselves here, if we don’t do something to fix it now, the next time the balance of power shifts, the exact same thing is going to happen and if history is any indicator, it’s going to get worse.

I am a sophomore at the University of Denver studying Film and English. I am deeply interested in Politics and the role of the U.S. in the world at large.

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