Sunday, December 13, 2009

Filibuster Used To Stymie Health Care Reform–And Democracy

With a majority of Americans and senators supporting a public health insurance option, how is it that officials are discussing alternatives to replace it? The obstacle is the filibuster, which substitutes the requirement of a majority vote for a supermajority–a profoundly undemocratic tactic, as pointed out in a recent editorial in The Nation, "Filibustering the Public":

The healthcare debate highlights everything that's wrong with the filibuster. Polling shows that more than 75 percent of Americans favor a public option, yet it could be eliminated--not to gain majority support in the Senate but to gain supermajority support. That's absurd, and citizens know it. That's why tens of thousands have signed petitions circulated by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Florida Congressman Alan Grayson and Firedoglake demanding alteration of the filibuster rule.

The editors urge Senate majority leader Harry Reid and his colleagues to get rid of the filibuster:

No matter where the healthcare debate takes us, Reid and Senate Democrats should commit to getting rid of rules that stifle debate and prevent action, and they should eliminate the filibuster and implement majority rule. That, after all, is what democracy is supposed to look like.

There is a senator who, with Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), once introduced legislation to weaken the power of the filibuster. In 1994, he said the following:

"[People] are fed up -- frustrated and fed up and angry about the way in which our government does not work, about the way in which we come down here and get into a lot of political games and seem to -- partisan tugs of war and forget why we're here, which is to serve the American people. And I think the filibuster has become not only in reality an obstacle to accomplishment here, but it also a symbol of a lot that ails Washington today."

These words were spoken by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who now threatens to filibuster any health care legislation containing a public option.

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