A structure to inhibit partisanship being destroyed one bit at a time

The real problem with the Senate’s new way of doing things is explained by Fred Bauer as The Senate Loses Its Tradition of Consensus.

“The precedent established by Senator Harry Reid’s use of the nuclear option is that the U.S. Senate will not be an institution of consensus and (albeit often feigned) comity. Instead, like the House, it will be run by a partisan majority.”

“The Senate has many institutional incentives for bipartisan negotiation and the empowerment of individual senators. Unlike the House, where the majority leadership can often bend the chamber to its desires, the Senate has proven harder to govern in a top-down manner. A web of rules and traditions protects the individual prerogatives of senators. That fact that these rules can traditionally only be changed (at least supposedly) by a supermajority of senators helps protect those individually empowering rules. In addition to other rules and traditions, the existence of the filibuster has often encouraged bipartisan cooperation. Because individual parties rarely have filibuster-proof majorities, working across the aisle has often been crucial for getting legislation passed. The need for cross-factional collaboration helped transform the Senate into a legislative body full of shifting coalitions, where each individual senator could play kingmaker on a given issue.”

The passing of the ACA (a.k.a. Obamacare) without any Republican support was an example of running roughshod over the minority. The results of that behavior are being seen. There is good reason to have procedures that stimulate a need for bipartisan support, for the majority party to find ways to obtain some support of the minority party, in getting laws passed. The Senate was structured as a means to provide that stimulus and its role has been weakened over time. The Reid nuclear option gambit is yet another weaking of that structure.

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