Destroying the Senate

The “Christian Science Monitor,” not a conservative publication, has a piece by Mark Sappenfield entitled Reconciliation: why healthcare reform ‘nuclear option’ is deadly. It discusses the tactic of evading the filibuster rules so as to pass the Health Care Reform bill with a bare majority, rather than needing 60 votes. The author is referring to a “Face the Nation” appearance by centrist Republican Lindsey Graham and centrist Democrat Evan Bayh:

To many senators, including Graham, these procedures are not roadblocks to effective governance, they are the building blocks of it. The Senate is generally the last word in American legislative politics partly because it is seen as being more collegial and collaborative than its congressional cousin – and these seemingly arcane rules are the reason it is so, some would argue.

What is the significance of requiring a bill to win 60 votes or face a filibuster, after all? It is, at least on one level, an inducement to find compromise – to cross the aisle, to build coalitions.

To Graham, using reconciliation to pass healthcare reform circumvents the very mandate for consensus-building that makes the Senate unique.

Of course, reconciliation has been used before by both parties. But Graham noted that other cases involved at least some cross-party consensus. In this case, not a single Senate Republican voted for the healthcare reform bill.

If Senate Democrats used reconciliation to make changes to their healthcare bill, Republicans would pull out every stop to bring work in the Senate to a halt between now and the November elections, both Graham and Senator Bayh conceded.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • John C

    I think I understand–
    The democrats have a clear majority in the House and Senate and an emphatic mandate for health care reform but democracy is under threat because the democrats are unwilling to negotiate with the minority party.

  • John C

    I think I understand–
    The democrats have a clear majority in the House and Senate and an emphatic mandate for health care reform but democracy is under threat because the democrats are unwilling to negotiate with the minority party.

  • DonS

    Yes, John C, that is right. All major social legislation in this country has passed with broad bipartisan support. You do not remake one-sixth of the U.S. economy by ramming it through, without 1) the benefit of an actual written bill, 2) without the support of a single member of the minority party, and 3) in the face of broad and consistent opposition by a large majority of the voters.

  • DonS

    Yes, John C, that is right. All major social legislation in this country has passed with broad bipartisan support. You do not remake one-sixth of the U.S. economy by ramming it through, without 1) the benefit of an actual written bill, 2) without the support of a single member of the minority party, and 3) in the face of broad and consistent opposition by a large majority of the voters.

  • DonS

    As for this process of reconciliation, I am dumbfounded. First, the House has to pass a bill a large majority of its members hate, namely, the already passed Senate bill, without a single amendment. Their vote for this bill is based on promises from Democratic congressional leadership and the President that it will then be “fixed” using the reconciliation process. But what if Pelosi and Reid deliver it to the President after it passes? They can, you know. And Obama is desperate enough to have a health care bill that he will sign it. So, basically, these members are trusting Democratic leadership not to deliver the passed bill to the President for signature until the reconciliation bill passes.

    This reconciliation process is no picnic. A million objections based on germaneness can be made, because reconciliation is limited to matters affecting the budget, and the Senate parliamentarian has to rule on each one. Additionally, though cloture is forbidden, amendments are not, unless they are ruled by the parliamentarian to be dilatory. It is no slam dunk that the follow-up bill will pass, or, if it does, that it will make all the changes that the House members have been promised. What then? Well, as I said above, sooner or later a health care bill will be signed. And if there is no follow-up reconciliation bill, you can bet your life that Obama will ultimately receive and sign the Senate bill. As is.

  • DonS

    As for this process of reconciliation, I am dumbfounded. First, the House has to pass a bill a large majority of its members hate, namely, the already passed Senate bill, without a single amendment. Their vote for this bill is based on promises from Democratic congressional leadership and the President that it will then be “fixed” using the reconciliation process. But what if Pelosi and Reid deliver it to the President after it passes? They can, you know. And Obama is desperate enough to have a health care bill that he will sign it. So, basically, these members are trusting Democratic leadership not to deliver the passed bill to the President for signature until the reconciliation bill passes.

    This reconciliation process is no picnic. A million objections based on germaneness can be made, because reconciliation is limited to matters affecting the budget, and the Senate parliamentarian has to rule on each one. Additionally, though cloture is forbidden, amendments are not, unless they are ruled by the parliamentarian to be dilatory. It is no slam dunk that the follow-up bill will pass, or, if it does, that it will make all the changes that the House members have been promised. What then? Well, as I said above, sooner or later a health care bill will be signed. And if there is no follow-up reconciliation bill, you can bet your life that Obama will ultimately receive and sign the Senate bill. As is.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Republicans: “We care an awful lot about bipartisanship! … When we’re out of power.”

    This is pathetic. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, rammed through by Republicans, were major legislation that had serious impact on the deficit, and they were both passed under reconciliation. The 2003 tax cuts couldn’t even muster more than 50 votes — Cheney had to cast the deciding vote. So by any measure, this health care bill is more popular than either tax cut (at least in the Senate, the only measure we have so far).

    Naturally, Graham was one of the 48 Republicans that voted for the tax cuts in 2003. Wonder what he thought of reconciliation and respecting the minority party back then.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Republicans: “We care an awful lot about bipartisanship! … When we’re out of power.”

    This is pathetic. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, rammed through by Republicans, were major legislation that had serious impact on the deficit, and they were both passed under reconciliation. The 2003 tax cuts couldn’t even muster more than 50 votes — Cheney had to cast the deciding vote. So by any measure, this health care bill is more popular than either tax cut (at least in the Senate, the only measure we have so far).

    Naturally, Graham was one of the 48 Republicans that voted for the tax cuts in 2003. Wonder what he thought of reconciliation and respecting the minority party back then.

  • Adam

    JohnC @1
    Amen.

  • Adam

    JohnC @1
    Amen.

  • Jonathan

    tODD, great points.
    Your thoughts on Veith referring to Graham as a ‘centrist’?

  • Jonathan

    tODD, great points.
    Your thoughts on Veith referring to Graham as a ‘centrist’?

  • Peter Leavitt

    JohnC, the Democrats hardly have a clear mandate for healthcare reform. Writing in a WSJ article today,<a href="Why Obama Can’t Move the Health-Care Numbers: For every voter who strongly favors the plan, two are strongly opposed. “>Here, Rasmussen and Schoen have this to say

    The dynamics of the numbers have remained constant as well. Democratic voters strongly support the plan while Republicans and unaffiliated voters oppose it. Senior citizens—the people who use the health-care system more than anybody else and who vote more than anybody else in midterm elections—are more opposed to the plan than younger voters. For every person who strongly favors it, two are strongly opposed.

    Why can’t the president move the numbers? One reason may be that he keeps talking about details of the proposal while voters are looking at the issue in a broader context. Polling conducted earlier this week shows that 57% of voters believe that passage of the legislation would hurt the economy, while only 25% believe it would help. That makes sense in a nation where most voters believe that increases in government spending are bad for the economy.

    The above is based on consistent poll data. A decisive majority of the American people basically disapprove of ObamaCare.

  • Peter Leavitt

    JohnC, the Democrats hardly have a clear mandate for healthcare reform. Writing in a WSJ article today,<a href="Why Obama Can’t Move the Health-Care Numbers: For every voter who strongly favors the plan, two are strongly opposed. “>Here, Rasmussen and Schoen have this to say

    The dynamics of the numbers have remained constant as well. Democratic voters strongly support the plan while Republicans and unaffiliated voters oppose it. Senior citizens—the people who use the health-care system more than anybody else and who vote more than anybody else in midterm elections—are more opposed to the plan than younger voters. For every person who strongly favors it, two are strongly opposed.

    Why can’t the president move the numbers? One reason may be that he keeps talking about details of the proposal while voters are looking at the issue in a broader context. Polling conducted earlier this week shows that 57% of voters believe that passage of the legislation would hurt the economy, while only 25% believe it would help. That makes sense in a nation where most voters believe that increases in government spending are bad for the economy.

    The above is based on consistent poll data. A decisive majority of the American people basically disapprove of ObamaCare.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Sorry, the above link is Here.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Sorry, the above link is Here.

  • Adam

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/01/health-care-polls-opinion-gap-or.html

    Here’s much better information about health care polls. Check out the graph as you scroll down. The point is that many parts of the health care legislation are quite popular.

  • Adam

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/01/health-care-polls-opinion-gap-or.html

    Here’s much better information about health care polls. Check out the graph as you scroll down. The point is that many parts of the health care legislation are quite popular.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Adam, parts of the bill are popular, though overall as Rasmussen reports the American people do not support ObamaCare. They well know that that it drastically raises health-care spending and that its budget assumptions, as Paul Ryan has demonstrated, are loaded with gimmicks. Basically ObamaCare would add another poorly funded entitlement on top of the vastly underfunded Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

    The only serious proposals that deal with these issues are contained in Ryan’s Roadmap for America that changes the tax system and sustainably funds all aspects of health-care and Social Security.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Adam, parts of the bill are popular, though overall as Rasmussen reports the American people do not support ObamaCare. They well know that that it drastically raises health-care spending and that its budget assumptions, as Paul Ryan has demonstrated, are loaded with gimmicks. Basically ObamaCare would add another poorly funded entitlement on top of the vastly underfunded Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

    The only serious proposals that deal with these issues are contained in Ryan’s Roadmap for America that changes the tax system and sustainably funds all aspects of health-care and Social Security.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Ah, so now Republicans want to resort to polls to bolster their point. Even though they routinely pilloried Clinton for looking to polls during his administration. “That’s not leadership!” they cried.

    The Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate, 8 of which they picked up in 2008, when health care reform was clearly a major topic.

    The Democrats have 257 votes in the House, 21 of which they picked up in 2008, when health care reform was clearly a major topic.

    In the 2008 presidential election, Obama won 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173. Health care was a major topic during the campaign.

    To deny that the Democrats have a mandate on health care reform simply because of what some poll says now is to fail to understand how politics works. I mean, does anybody remember how Bush rushed to claim his “mandate” in 2004, with a mere 286 electoral votes to Kerry’s 251? Please. (Though, to be fair, that was the best margin of victory he ever mustered.)

    Democrats have earned the right to do what they want with the government system because they were elected by the people to do just that. If Republicans don’t like that, maybe they can win more elections next year.

    In fact, if everyone here is right about the disdain for health care reform, then Republicans will win some elections, and maybe even a house of Congress. Then, I’m sure we’ll hear soooo much from Republicans about bipartisanship and respecting minority parties. Mmm-hmm.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Ah, so now Republicans want to resort to polls to bolster their point. Even though they routinely pilloried Clinton for looking to polls during his administration. “That’s not leadership!” they cried.

    The Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate, 8 of which they picked up in 2008, when health care reform was clearly a major topic.

    The Democrats have 257 votes in the House, 21 of which they picked up in 2008, when health care reform was clearly a major topic.

    In the 2008 presidential election, Obama won 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173. Health care was a major topic during the campaign.

    To deny that the Democrats have a mandate on health care reform simply because of what some poll says now is to fail to understand how politics works. I mean, does anybody remember how Bush rushed to claim his “mandate” in 2004, with a mere 286 electoral votes to Kerry’s 251? Please. (Though, to be fair, that was the best margin of victory he ever mustered.)

    Democrats have earned the right to do what they want with the government system because they were elected by the people to do just that. If Republicans don’t like that, maybe they can win more elections next year.

    In fact, if everyone here is right about the disdain for health care reform, then Republicans will win some elections, and maybe even a house of Congress. Then, I’m sure we’ll hear soooo much from Republicans about bipartisanship and respecting minority parties. Mmm-hmm.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, I was responding with poll data to JohnC’s contention that the Democrats have … an emphatic mandate for health care reform…” and am far from arguing that statesmen should be poll driven.

    I was delighted when Bush went against the polls with his surge and change of strategy in Iraq.

    I have no problem with Obama pursuing his health-care strategy, as a matter of principle, though he is quite mistaken in attempting this through the budget reconciliation parliamentary procedure. Sen. Byrd, a Democrat who designed this procedure, said that it would be an “outrage” to use it for the health-care bill. On a bill that deals with about 20% of the economy it would be wise to allow the Senate its 60% cloture rule.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, I was responding with poll data to JohnC’s contention that the Democrats have … an emphatic mandate for health care reform…” and am far from arguing that statesmen should be poll driven.

    I was delighted when Bush went against the polls with his surge and change of strategy in Iraq.

    I have no problem with Obama pursuing his health-care strategy, as a matter of principle, though he is quite mistaken in attempting this through the budget reconciliation parliamentary procedure. Sen. Byrd, a Democrat who designed this procedure, said that it would be an “outrage” to use it for the health-care bill. On a bill that deals with about 20% of the economy it would be wise to allow the Senate its 60% cloture rule.

  • John C

    Governments must be allowed to govern. They must be allowed to respond quickly to the challenges of modern society. Elections every 2 years allow citizens to judge legislation and punish or reward accordingly.
    The Senate super majority is just a formula for interminable bickering and inertia.
    I would add that the Senate is primarily a State’s house and does not represent the principle of one vote one value. ( a citizen’s vote in a state with the least population has greater value than a citizen’s vote in a state with the most population) So legislation is being blocked by a Senate that does not directly represent the will of the people.

  • John C

    Governments must be allowed to govern. They must be allowed to respond quickly to the challenges of modern society. Elections every 2 years allow citizens to judge legislation and punish or reward accordingly.
    The Senate super majority is just a formula for interminable bickering and inertia.
    I would add that the Senate is primarily a State’s house and does not represent the principle of one vote one value. ( a citizen’s vote in a state with the least population has greater value than a citizen’s vote in a state with the most population) So legislation is being blocked by a Senate that does not directly represent the will of the people.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 4: Of course, you do recognize the stark difference between passing a tax bill under budget reconciliation (taxes being directly related to the budget, and all that) and trying to pass, through reconciliation, a myriad of disparate measures related to an effort to pass a new entitlement and regulatory scheme for re-making one-sixth of the American economy? And, to boot, doing this in an effort to fix a law that IS NOT EVEN IN PLACE!! Other such uses of reconciliation have been for cutting programs in order to balance the budget. Again, quite germane to the purpose of the reconciliation process. If you take a step back, and a deep breath, you can see how nuts this is. Someone above remarked about how parts of the plan are popular, and some aren’t. The logical thing to do would be to try to craft a smaller scale bill that includes the popular elements and doesn’t involve entitlements (since we obviously cannot afford more of those. But, this health care bill long ago ceased to be about health care and became a vanity project. It must be passed, not because it improves things (who would know, since there is no current bill), but because to not pass something would be to deny Obama his legislative goal of the year.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 4: Of course, you do recognize the stark difference between passing a tax bill under budget reconciliation (taxes being directly related to the budget, and all that) and trying to pass, through reconciliation, a myriad of disparate measures related to an effort to pass a new entitlement and regulatory scheme for re-making one-sixth of the American economy? And, to boot, doing this in an effort to fix a law that IS NOT EVEN IN PLACE!! Other such uses of reconciliation have been for cutting programs in order to balance the budget. Again, quite germane to the purpose of the reconciliation process. If you take a step back, and a deep breath, you can see how nuts this is. Someone above remarked about how parts of the plan are popular, and some aren’t. The logical thing to do would be to try to craft a smaller scale bill that includes the popular elements and doesn’t involve entitlements (since we obviously cannot afford more of those. But, this health care bill long ago ceased to be about health care and became a vanity project. It must be passed, not because it improves things (who would know, since there is no current bill), but because to not pass something would be to deny Obama his legislative goal of the year.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 11: Note that the Democrats now only have 59 votes in the Senate. The conclusive evidence is that Brown won because he opposed Obama’s healthcare proposal, in Massachusetts! Firstly, Obama never had a mandate to do what he has since attempted to do with respect to health care. Yes, it was a major topic during the 2008 campaign, but Obama’s promises were all about bipartisanship, cooperation, a new era, and transparency. His mandate was to govern in that manner. This healthcare power play has been the polar opposite of what he promised, and is the reason he has no mandate to do what he is doing.

    “Democrats have earned the right to do what they want with the government system because they were elected by the people to do just that. If Republicans don’t like that, maybe they can win more elections next year.” — Not at all. Governing in this manner ensures that you will not remain in power long. What they earned the right to do was to represent the people as the majority party in both houses of Congress as well as in the presidency. That is, by no means, carte blanche to do “what they want with the government system”. And it is, by no means, a vitiation of the Republicans’ right to do whatever they can, as the minority, to thwart what they see as actions to damage the country. Especially when what the Democrats propose to do is to institute a bureaucratic, unaffordable health care entitlement that, once in place, will be virtually impossible to dislodge.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 11: Note that the Democrats now only have 59 votes in the Senate. The conclusive evidence is that Brown won because he opposed Obama’s healthcare proposal, in Massachusetts! Firstly, Obama never had a mandate to do what he has since attempted to do with respect to health care. Yes, it was a major topic during the 2008 campaign, but Obama’s promises were all about bipartisanship, cooperation, a new era, and transparency. His mandate was to govern in that manner. This healthcare power play has been the polar opposite of what he promised, and is the reason he has no mandate to do what he is doing.

    “Democrats have earned the right to do what they want with the government system because they were elected by the people to do just that. If Republicans don’t like that, maybe they can win more elections next year.” — Not at all. Governing in this manner ensures that you will not remain in power long. What they earned the right to do was to represent the people as the majority party in both houses of Congress as well as in the presidency. That is, by no means, carte blanche to do “what they want with the government system”. And it is, by no means, a vitiation of the Republicans’ right to do whatever they can, as the minority, to thwart what they see as actions to damage the country. Especially when what the Democrats propose to do is to institute a bureaucratic, unaffordable health care entitlement that, once in place, will be virtually impossible to dislodge.

  • DonS

    JohnC @ 13: “I would add that the Senate is primarily a State’s house and does not represent the principle of one vote one value. ( a citizen’s vote in a state with the least population has greater value than a citizen’s vote in a state with the most population) So legislation is being blocked by a Senate that does not directly represent the will of the people.”

    You are absolutely right. And that is EXACTLY what the founding fathers intended when they set up our system of governance. The Congress is bicameral, with representatives in the House being elected substantially under the one man, one vote principle (direct representation), and the Senate representing the states equally, regardless of their population. As you know from your history, the smaller states never would have agreed to a federal government if they were not protected in this manner. If you want to change this principle, you will have to amend the Constitution. Good luck with that!

    I live in California, so have, proportionately, the least representation in the U.S. Senate. However, I wouldn’t change this system for the life of me. The genious of American government is its multitude of checks and balances, which have thus far protected us from the greed of voters seeking for themselves plunder from the federal treasury, in the form of entitlements and oppressive regulation, without a corresponding desire to bear the responsibility for their plunder (tax that rich guy or regulate the guy in the small western state — I just want the goodies).

    Of course, we Californians have gained our revenge by sending to the Senate one of the worst ever to serve in that august body — the honorable Barbara Boxer. That should be sufficient, in and of itself, to convince you that the Senate should remain a representative of the states, rather than individuals :-)

  • DonS

    JohnC @ 13: “I would add that the Senate is primarily a State’s house and does not represent the principle of one vote one value. ( a citizen’s vote in a state with the least population has greater value than a citizen’s vote in a state with the most population) So legislation is being blocked by a Senate that does not directly represent the will of the people.”

    You are absolutely right. And that is EXACTLY what the founding fathers intended when they set up our system of governance. The Congress is bicameral, with representatives in the House being elected substantially under the one man, one vote principle (direct representation), and the Senate representing the states equally, regardless of their population. As you know from your history, the smaller states never would have agreed to a federal government if they were not protected in this manner. If you want to change this principle, you will have to amend the Constitution. Good luck with that!

    I live in California, so have, proportionately, the least representation in the U.S. Senate. However, I wouldn’t change this system for the life of me. The genious of American government is its multitude of checks and balances, which have thus far protected us from the greed of voters seeking for themselves plunder from the federal treasury, in the form of entitlements and oppressive regulation, without a corresponding desire to bear the responsibility for their plunder (tax that rich guy or regulate the guy in the small western state — I just want the goodies).

    Of course, we Californians have gained our revenge by sending to the Senate one of the worst ever to serve in that august body — the honorable Barbara Boxer. That should be sufficient, in and of itself, to convince you that the Senate should remain a representative of the states, rather than individuals :-)

  • David

    When was the last time Congress forced a major bill on our country against the will of the people? What was it and how well did it work?

  • David

    When was the last time Congress forced a major bill on our country against the will of the people? What was it and how well did it work?

  • DonS

    The latest news is that Louise Slaughter, Congresswoman from New York, is proposing a House rule change wherein the Senate Healthcare bill, which was passed a while back, will simply be “deemed” as having passed the House, without the inconvenience of bothering to take a vote on that bill (they will just vote on the rule change).

    This is truly absurd theater.

  • DonS

    The latest news is that Louise Slaughter, Congresswoman from New York, is proposing a House rule change wherein the Senate Healthcare bill, which was passed a while back, will simply be “deemed” as having passed the House, without the inconvenience of bothering to take a vote on that bill (they will just vote on the rule change).

    This is truly absurd theater.

  • John C

    So Don, the house that least reflects the will of the people, frustrates the house that does. This makes a mockery of the 60/40 rule and the need for consensus doesn’t it? Would not a simple majority suffice?

  • John C

    So Don, the house that least reflects the will of the people, frustrates the house that does. This makes a mockery of the 60/40 rule and the need for consensus doesn’t it? Would not a simple majority suffice?

  • DonS

    John C @ 19: The 60/40, or cloture rule is a rule, not a Constitutional requirement. So, it could be changed to majority rule if desired. I think, though that both parties, at root, recognize that having to convince 60 senators to vote for something forces an extra measure of consideration, and provide an opportunity for compromise which is essential to avoid a rash result. Checks and balances are an important success story of the U.S, because of the nature of democracies to vote themselves to ruin over time, because of short political terms and the desire to curry favor with certain constituencies and, essentially, buy votes.

    As for your first point, the Senate represents the interests of the people, as organized by states, rather than as individuals. That essentially protects those in rural areas from being overwhelmed by urban centers. Who’s to say that this check on power is a bad thing? I think it is another advantage of the U.S. system.

  • DonS

    John C @ 19: The 60/40, or cloture rule is a rule, not a Constitutional requirement. So, it could be changed to majority rule if desired. I think, though that both parties, at root, recognize that having to convince 60 senators to vote for something forces an extra measure of consideration, and provide an opportunity for compromise which is essential to avoid a rash result. Checks and balances are an important success story of the U.S, because of the nature of democracies to vote themselves to ruin over time, because of short political terms and the desire to curry favor with certain constituencies and, essentially, buy votes.

    As for your first point, the Senate represents the interests of the people, as organized by states, rather than as individuals. That essentially protects those in rural areas from being overwhelmed by urban centers. Who’s to say that this check on power is a bad thing? I think it is another advantage of the U.S. system.

  • John C

    Take checks and balances too far and the state becomes ungovernable. The public knows this. The approval ratings for Congress are dreadful. This cannot be good for democracy.

  • John C

    Take checks and balances too far and the state becomes ungovernable. The public knows this. The approval ratings for Congress are dreadful. This cannot be good for democracy.

  • DonS

    John C: The approval ratings for Congress are dreadful precisely because it is ignoring the clear will of the people and trying to ram through, under cloak of secrecy, a bill that a vast majority of the people do not want. A transparent process was promised, but was not delivered. The people want incremental change, and they are not getting what they voted for.

  • DonS

    John C: The approval ratings for Congress are dreadful precisely because it is ignoring the clear will of the people and trying to ram through, under cloak of secrecy, a bill that a vast majority of the people do not want. A transparent process was promised, but was not delivered. The people want incremental change, and they are not getting what they voted for.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@22), one can only say that “the approval ratings for Congress are dreadful precisely because it is ignoring the clear will of the people and trying to ram through, under cloak of secrecy, a bill that a vast majority of the people do not want” if one is, simply, ignorant of the historical approval ratings for Congress.

    Last I heard, the approval rating for Congress is around 22%. The approval rating for the past 30+ years has consistently hovered between 20-40% (except during a post-9/11 spike of patriotic approval). But the current ranking isn’t the lowest approval rating. That would be 18% according to Gallup has happened several times, none of which involved what you claim is the problem.

    I realize you don’t like the health care bill, Don, but try not to project your own thoughts onto poll results.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@22), one can only say that “the approval ratings for Congress are dreadful precisely because it is ignoring the clear will of the people and trying to ram through, under cloak of secrecy, a bill that a vast majority of the people do not want” if one is, simply, ignorant of the historical approval ratings for Congress.

    Last I heard, the approval rating for Congress is around 22%. The approval rating for the past 30+ years has consistently hovered between 20-40% (except during a post-9/11 spike of patriotic approval). But the current ranking isn’t the lowest approval rating. That would be 18% according to Gallup has happened several times, none of which involved what you claim is the problem.

    I realize you don’t like the health care bill, Don, but try not to project your own thoughts onto poll results.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 23 — read this article by two Democratic pollsters, one of whom worked for Carter and the other for Clinton:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/11/AR2010031102904.html

    They’re not just my thoughts.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 23 — read this article by two Democratic pollsters, one of whom worked for Carter and the other for Clinton:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/11/AR2010031102904.html

    They’re not just my thoughts.

  • DonS

    News Flash just in:

    http://cdn.rollcall.com/media/44110-1.html

    According to Roll Call, the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that “President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package”. This essentially kills the silly reconciliation option, because there is no way that the House is going to pass the Senate bill, unchanged, and allow Obama to sign it, on the basis of a promise that, afterward, it will be fixed through reconciliation.

    The parliamentarian is a breath of fresh air, restoring a measure of sanity to what has become an absurdity — efforts to “fix”, through reconciliation, a law that has not been passed through a reconciliation bill not yet written. The Slaughter rule, which was going to be a rule “deeming” the Senate bill to have been passed by the House without actually having been voted on, was emblematic of the height of the absurdity.

    Now maybe, finally, we can go back to the table and craft something that everyone can agree makes sense, adopts a more incremental approach, and has the support of the American people. Or am I dreaming?

  • DonS

    News Flash just in:

    http://cdn.rollcall.com/media/44110-1.html

    According to Roll Call, the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that “President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package”. This essentially kills the silly reconciliation option, because there is no way that the House is going to pass the Senate bill, unchanged, and allow Obama to sign it, on the basis of a promise that, afterward, it will be fixed through reconciliation.

    The parliamentarian is a breath of fresh air, restoring a measure of sanity to what has become an absurdity — efforts to “fix”, through reconciliation, a law that has not been passed through a reconciliation bill not yet written. The Slaughter rule, which was going to be a rule “deeming” the Senate bill to have been passed by the House without actually having been voted on, was emblematic of the height of the absurdity.

    Now maybe, finally, we can go back to the table and craft something that everyone can agree makes sense, adopts a more incremental approach, and has the support of the American people. Or am I dreaming?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don, I read the article you linked to (@24). Did you? It doesn’t support your claim that “the approval ratings for Congress are dreadful precisely because it is ignoring the clear will of the people and trying to ram through, under cloak of secrecy, a bill that a vast majority of the people do not want.” Sorry. Again, approval ratings for Congress are always in the toilet, at least relative to the numbers for most individual politicians.

    What the article does say is that there may be political repercussions for the Democrats’ actions on health care, but even that is hardly a guarantee that Congress’ approval ratings will change. Frankly, I doubt it. Approval ratings of Congress as a whole are pretty much meaningless when it comes to determining the popularity of any one bill — you could use them to justify a statement of public disregard for any bill, no matter the actual polling on that particular bill. What’s more, the consistently dismal rating for Congress completely fails to explain the extreme popularity that incumbents have.

    Also, Patrick Caddell is not a Democratic pollster. He once was, but he left the party in 1988 and has frequently made tirades against the party since then. Not saying he’s a Republican, but I think your label is inaccurate.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don, I read the article you linked to (@24). Did you? It doesn’t support your claim that “the approval ratings for Congress are dreadful precisely because it is ignoring the clear will of the people and trying to ram through, under cloak of secrecy, a bill that a vast majority of the people do not want.” Sorry. Again, approval ratings for Congress are always in the toilet, at least relative to the numbers for most individual politicians.

    What the article does say is that there may be political repercussions for the Democrats’ actions on health care, but even that is hardly a guarantee that Congress’ approval ratings will change. Frankly, I doubt it. Approval ratings of Congress as a whole are pretty much meaningless when it comes to determining the popularity of any one bill — you could use them to justify a statement of public disregard for any bill, no matter the actual polling on that particular bill. What’s more, the consistently dismal rating for Congress completely fails to explain the extreme popularity that incumbents have.

    Also, Patrick Caddell is not a Democratic pollster. He once was, but he left the party in 1988 and has frequently made tirades against the party since then. Not saying he’s a Republican, but I think your label is inaccurate.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 26: I posted the Washington Post article in response to your comment about my “own thoughts” concerning the health care bill. I don’t much care about the polls that purport to measure approval ratings of Congress as a whole. Though you can tell things from trends in those ratings (are they going up or down?), Congress is not elected as a unit, but in 535 separate contests. Of course, the Congressional approval ratings are very low right now, because Congress is doing a horrible job, and the people know it, but to try to correllate the current polls to historical norms is probably a waste of time.

    Patrick Caddell is still very much a Democrat, as the article states. He has become more independent in his thinking lately, but he has never wavered in his party affiliation.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 26: I posted the Washington Post article in response to your comment about my “own thoughts” concerning the health care bill. I don’t much care about the polls that purport to measure approval ratings of Congress as a whole. Though you can tell things from trends in those ratings (are they going up or down?), Congress is not elected as a unit, but in 535 separate contests. Of course, the Congressional approval ratings are very low right now, because Congress is doing a horrible job, and the people know it, but to try to correllate the current polls to historical norms is probably a waste of time.

    Patrick Caddell is still very much a Democrat, as the article states. He has become more independent in his thinking lately, but he has never wavered in his party affiliation.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@27), on the one hand you say that you “don’t much care about the polls that purport to measure approval ratings of Congress as a whole”, but then you go right on to say that “Congressional approval ratings are very low right now, because Congress is doing a horrible job, and the people know it” and had previously claimed “approval ratings for Congress are dreadful precisely because” of the health care bill. You are using the congressional approval numbers to bolster your thoughts (and, yes, the thoughts of others) on a particular issue, even though there’s no evidence that such a generic poll can be tied to any one idea. That’s what I’m taking issue with. You’re trying to make hay out of the very poll you claim you don’t care about.

    Also, where in the article does it state that “Caddell is still very much a Democrat”, as you say? I can’t find that sentence. But never mind. I was wrong (@26) in saying that “he left the party in 1988″ — that was from Wikipedia, and now that I’ve read their sources, I don’t think that’s supported. I can’t see that he’s actually publicly supported any Democrat since the 90s, but at least on Fox News, for whatever reason, he still claims he’s a Democrat.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@27), on the one hand you say that you “don’t much care about the polls that purport to measure approval ratings of Congress as a whole”, but then you go right on to say that “Congressional approval ratings are very low right now, because Congress is doing a horrible job, and the people know it” and had previously claimed “approval ratings for Congress are dreadful precisely because” of the health care bill. You are using the congressional approval numbers to bolster your thoughts (and, yes, the thoughts of others) on a particular issue, even though there’s no evidence that such a generic poll can be tied to any one idea. That’s what I’m taking issue with. You’re trying to make hay out of the very poll you claim you don’t care about.

    Also, where in the article does it state that “Caddell is still very much a Democrat”, as you say? I can’t find that sentence. But never mind. I was wrong (@26) in saying that “he left the party in 1988″ — that was from Wikipedia, and now that I’ve read their sources, I don’t think that’s supported. I can’t see that he’s actually publicly supported any Democrat since the 90s, but at least on Fox News, for whatever reason, he still claims he’s a Democrat.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 28: What I meant by that statement is that I don’t care much about the actual numbers. I don’t think they correlate from year to year and between pollsters, and they’re always on the low side because people are naturally complainers. :-) Moreover, because Congress is elected in some 468 separate races every two years, generic approval polls for the whole body and the generic elect numbers don’t mean all that much, relative to specific polls in each district, if they are available. However, the trends and questions behind the trends, as reported by pollsters across the spectrum this year, do indicate that the reason congressional approval has dipped to historically low numbers is due, in part, to the healthcare bill and the way that it has been strong-armed. My citation to the Washington Post article was an effort to back up my viewpoint by citing to specific healthcare polls, given that you seemed to be challenging my assertion that the current healthcare proposals are rather unpopular.

    I know that Caddell is a Democrat and still has only ever polled for Democratic candidates. He states, without reservation, that he is a Democrat. He is estranged from certain particularly liberal elements of the Democratic party, but he is still a loyal Democrat. However, that article only referenced that he was a pollster for Democratic candidates and didn’t specifically refer to his party affiliation, so I misstated that earlier.

    Doug Schoen, on the other hand, is not estranged from the party at all, and is a pretty liberal guy.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 28: What I meant by that statement is that I don’t care much about the actual numbers. I don’t think they correlate from year to year and between pollsters, and they’re always on the low side because people are naturally complainers. :-) Moreover, because Congress is elected in some 468 separate races every two years, generic approval polls for the whole body and the generic elect numbers don’t mean all that much, relative to specific polls in each district, if they are available. However, the trends and questions behind the trends, as reported by pollsters across the spectrum this year, do indicate that the reason congressional approval has dipped to historically low numbers is due, in part, to the healthcare bill and the way that it has been strong-armed. My citation to the Washington Post article was an effort to back up my viewpoint by citing to specific healthcare polls, given that you seemed to be challenging my assertion that the current healthcare proposals are rather unpopular.

    I know that Caddell is a Democrat and still has only ever polled for Democratic candidates. He states, without reservation, that he is a Democrat. He is estranged from certain particularly liberal elements of the Democratic party, but he is still a loyal Democrat. However, that article only referenced that he was a pollster for Democratic candidates and didn’t specifically refer to his party affiliation, so I misstated that earlier.

    Doug Schoen, on the other hand, is not estranged from the party at all, and is a pretty liberal guy.


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