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.

Perceptions of the Pentagon shooter

The Washington Post on Saturday carried two front page stories, side by side, on John Patrick Bedell, the man who shot and wounded two guards at the Pentagon before he was killed.  The one story, Pentagon shooter, others strike symbols of ‘power for the powerless’, framed the attack in terms of anti-government groups, such as the Tea Party movement and right-wing militias.   “Researchers who track violent groups see Bedell’s rampage as a distorted manifestation of the anti-Washington view that has driven the rise of right-wing militias.”

And yet, the accompanying news article describes a marijuana activist whom friends described as a “peacenik” known for his 9/11 denial and his online rants against George W. Bush. In other words, this mentally-disturbed 36-year-old was a creature of the left rather than of the right, despite the impression created by the feature story.

Yes, Bedell believed in wild conspiracy theories–maintaining that the government was taken over by a “coup” when JFK was assassinated and that it has been run by a sinister non-democratic cabal ever since–but such fantasies are commonplace on the hard left as well as the hard right.

Democrat pro-lifers taking a stand

Not all pro-lifers are Republicans and not all pro-lifers are conservatives.  Twelve pro-life DEMOCRATS in Congress are stepping up.  They say they are willing to kill the health care bill if it would fund abortions.

A dozen House of Representatives Democrats opposed to abortion are willing to kill President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform plan unless it satisfies their demand for language barring the procedure, Representative Bart Stupak said on Thursday.

“Yes. We’re prepared to take responsibility,” Stupak said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked if he and his 11 Democratic allies were willing to accept the consequences for bringing down healthcare reform over abortion.

“Let’;s face it. I want to see healthcare. But we’re not going to bypass the principles of belief that we feel strongly about,” he said.

via UPDATE 2-US Democrats would kill healthcare over abortion | Reuters.

The Top 10 liberal & conservative lawmakers

The National Journal has put together a useful list based on objective study of voting records (the numbers indicate the ranking, including ties):

The 10 Most Liberal Senate          Most Conservative Senate

1. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)                  1. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)

1. Roland Burris (D-IL)                       2. Jim DeMint (R-SC)

1. Ben Cardin (D-MD)                         3. Jim Bunning (R-KY)

1. Jack Reed (D-RI)                              4. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

1. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)           5. Jim Risch (R-ID)

6. John Kerry (D-MA)                          6. John Thune (R-SD)

6. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)                7. John Ensign (R-NV)

8. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)                8. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

9. Chris Dodd (D-CT)                             9. Richard Burr (R-NC)

9. Dick Durbin (D-IL)                           10. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

The 10 Most Liberal House              Most Conservative House

1. Rush Holt (D-NJ)                               1. Trent Franks (R-AZ)

1. Gwen Moore (D-WI)                          1. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)

1. John Olver (D-MA)                             1. Randy Neugebaurer (R-TX)

1. Linda Sanchez (D-CA)                        1. Pete Olson (R-TX)

1. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)                       1. John Shadegg (R-AZ)

1. Louise Slaughter (D-NY)                     1. Mac Thornberry (R-TX)

1. Mel Watt (D-NC)                                   7. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)

1. Henry Waxman (D-CA)                       8. Mike Pence (R-IN)

9. Kathy Castor (D-FL)                             9. Steve King (R-IA)

10. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL)                    9. Tom McClintock (R-CA)

Most Liberal House Delegations Most Conservative Delegations

1. MA                                                             1. ID

2. HI                                                              2. KY

3. VT                                                              3. SC

4. CT                                                              4. TX

5. RI                                                                5. GA

via National Journal’s Vote Rankings: The Top 10 – Hotline On Call.

Campaigning vs. Governing

Might the skill sets necessary for getting elected be incompatible with the skill sets necessary for actually governing?  Now that our politicians are in constant campaign mode–which requires pie-in-the-sky promises and unrealistic rhetoric–does that, by its very nature, prevent them from solving actual problems?

Such scary thoughts are inspired by economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson.  He chastizes both liberals (for running up huge deficits with no concern for the consequences) and conservatives (for insisting on tax cuts even in the face of those huge deficits).  Then he cuts to the problem:

Governing is about making choices. By contrast, the la-la politics of both left and right evade choices and substitute for them pleasing fictional visions. . . .

The common denominator is a triumph of electioneering over governing. Every campaign is an exercise in make-believe. All the good ideas and good people lie on one side. All the “special interests,” barbarians and dangerous ideas lie on the other. There’s no room for the real world’s messy ambiguities, discomforting contradictions and unpopular choices. But to govern successfully, leaders must confront precisely those ambiguities, contradictions and choices.

The make-believe of campaigns increasingly shapes the process of governing. Whether this reflects cable TV and the Internet — which reward the harsh hostility of extreme partisanship — or the precarious balance between the two parties or something else is hard to say. But the disconnect between policy and the real world is harmful. Proposals tend to be constructed more for their public relations effects than for their capacity to solve actual problems.

The result is a paradox. This electioneering style of governing strives to bolster politicians' popularity. But it does the opposite. Because partisan rhetoric creates exaggerated expectations of what government can do, people across the ideological spectrum are routinely disillusioned. Because actual problems fester — and people see that — public trust of political leaders erodes.

via Robert J. Samuelson – Both parties fall prey to make-believe politics –

Something else to bring down our republic: If there is an intrinsic disconnect between the political process in a democracy and the necessities of governing, our system of government is doomed. And yet, in our history, there have been statesmen who were effective in both realms. Do you think these are two incompatible vocations?

A conservative manifesto

A group of conservative leaders have issued a manifesto entitled  The Mount Vernon Statement, which attempts to define what political conservatism is all about.  Excerpts:

A Constitutional conservatism unites all conservatives through the natural fusion provided by American principles. It reminds economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America’s safety and leadership role in the world.

A Constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda.

It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.

It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.

It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.

It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that

It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.

Is this adequate?