Hello Everyone, 

The Senate Vote
As everyone knows by now, in yet another show of bi-partisanship, the Senate passed the spending bill on Saturday. It was truly a compromise (we haven’t heard that word much in the last few years): the 56 votes for passage were split 31 Democratic, 24 Republican, 1 Independent. So the majority needed substantial participation by the minority. That’s a good thing, even though no one was entirely satisfied. I think that is what compromise (that once dirty word) produces. Interestingly, the cloture vote was 77 to 19.  

These two corrections are technical, so, hopefully, few of you will care to read about my miscues.

# 93: Immigration, the Tyranny of the Minority, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964
An Amherst classmate was actually present for some of the Senate debate on the 1964 Civil Rights Act that was eventually passed just five days after we graduated.  So, he remembers the cloture rule in effect at the time. 

In my commentary, I wrote “…Then, the House bill was held up by a four-month…delay in the Senate. Ultimately, a real, not virtual, filibuster was broken. With the usual sixty votes needed for cloture, the vote was Democrats – 44, Republicans – 27. The majority Democrats couldn’t even get to cloture without the Republicans.”

While my facts on that particular vote were correct, the words “usual sixty votes” were not. The cloture rule in 1964 required a vote of “two-thirds of all senators present and voting.”  In 1975, the Senate reduced the requirement to three-fifths of those senators “duly chosen and sworn,” or effectively sixty votes. I stand corrected. Thank you, George.

#94: Thank you, Speaker Boehner
Another Amherst classmate (hmmm…) was the first to point out that “…the ‘Hastert rule’ is not to bring a bill to the floor unless a majority of the majority party (i.e., the Republicans) is for it. In this case [the recent House vote on the spending bill], a majority of the Republicans supported it, albeit not enough to pass it on their own.” I misinterpreted the “Rule,” and I stand corrected. Thank you, Scott.

However, I think my larger point about the “tyranny of the minority” still holds. The notion of the “tyranny” is this: there are 234 Republicans in the current House. A majority of them, if they are all voting, is 118. Therefore, under the Hastert Rule, 118 of the 435 members, or 27%, can prevent a vote on a bill even when there are enough combined Republican and Democratic votes to pass it.

Per The New Yorker last year: “Today, Boehner’s violations of the Hastert rule [that answers one of my questions in #94] have angered conservatives who see themselves as the ones marginalized by his ability to get around their demands. Under pressure, Boehner has repeatedly reassured them that he won’t break the rule again when it comes to immigration reform. Something resembling the bill that has passed the Senate would likely pass the House if it came to a floor vote, with a majority of Democrats and a minority of Republicans in support. But Boehner has made clear he won’t allow that to happen.”

That article went on to argue that the Rule is really what could be called a “speaker preservation rule” – satisfying the majority of his members, but a minority of the entire House, to keep his grip on the speaker’s office.  Hardly a democratic concept.

I would go on to point out that for a party that often pulls out the “constitutionality” card, as has been the case with the recent executive order on immigration, it blithely seems to ignore the most bedrock of all constitutional principles, majority rule, when the Hastert Rule is invoked.

All in all, I guess I will have to eat crow for Christmas dinner this year, rather than turkey.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Please, as always, pass it on. And, remember that previous Obamagrams are stored on www.obamagrams.com



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