The time has come to put people before procedure.
I think everyone has heard this about President Joe Biden. He spent more than 30 years in the Senate and has a great deal of respect for that institution and its traditions. That may be true but he needs to move past that. The time has come to look at those traditions and jettison those that are hampering things from being done to make the country better.
- The filibuster needs to be reformed. Note: I did not say “abolished.” Way back in 2013, I wrote a piece for The Daily Banter, “In defense of the filibuster.” In that article, I cited Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address in which he said, “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.” That, to me, was the essence of the filibuster but not as it is used today. Today, the GOP uses to block Democrats at every turn. Keep in mind, the first filibuster took place in 1837, hardly during the time of Hamilton and Jefferson. Moreover, it was changed numerous times in the 1900s. It’s time to change it to make the Senate function. Some of my progressive friends think the Democrats don’t actually want to get anything done. If nothing is done to change the filibuster to let more legislation get passed in the Senate, I may start to agree with them.
- Stop acting like the rules of the Senate come directly from God or are written in stone. Many of the rules that we now have in the Senate were not in the Constitution, nor were they around for a long time. There are 44 rules that govern the Senate. Every session they have to be agreed to. That means, there is a chance to change them every two years. The last time they were changed was in 2013. I don’t think James Madison was there.
- Stop acting like the parliamentarian was elected and has more say than the people who were. The Senate parliamentarian is the person who tells senators what is and is not allowed by the rules of that body. This person is a consultant. Now, I had not thought much about this position when I worked on the Hill but when I did, I thought to myself, this person is not elected. They cannot possibly have more power than the people who are. A friend of mine pointed me to the fact that past Senates have fired the parliamentarian when they disagreed with their rulings. Most recently, this happened in 2001. Both parties have done this.
If you want to learn more about how Senate rules can be changed, you can look at this.
You need to stick to your Democratic ideals but act more like a Republican
Mr. President, during your campaign you talked about expanding health care, wiping away student loan debt, paying for new infrastructure work with an increase in the corporate tax rate, and increasing the minimum wage. None of that has happened. Yet. If you are not going to start pushing the ideals you pushed during the campaign, you are going to start losing people, like me. Your approval rating may be high (62.6%) but this is not the time to get comfortable or become complacent. I still hold out hope that you can do what you said you would.
A bit about that corporate tax rate: note it was over 50% in the 1950s which seems to be the “golden era of America” according to the GOP, over 45% under Ronald Reagan, about 35% under Bill Clinton and is 21% now. It is unconscionable to even consider dropping it to 15%. This is the kind of move that makes me wonder if you meant what you said. It doesn’t make me regret my vote or the hundreds of hours I spend volunteering for your campaign because Trump represented (and still represents) an existential threat to the nation. It does make me want to speak out.
Republicans fight for their ideals. As much as I dislike Mitch McConnell (R-KY), you have to give him props for standing his ground. While he is doing everything he can to undermine you, you are talking about bipartisanship and thinking about the institution of the Senate. What matters more? Preserving the lie that the Senate is a place of moderation and thoughtfulness or helping Americans who are suffering? Was the Senate really ever the “world’s most deliberative body” and does that even matter?
You never hear #MoscowMitch waxing nostalgic about the Senate when he denies a Democratic president’s Supreme Court nominee a hearing or refuses to support an independent commission to look into January 6, do you? No. No, you do not.
Mr. President, I support you. I like a lot of the things you have done. I understand the process and know you need to try to work with the GOP (more on that tomorrow) but my patience has its limits.