Angering the country over Senate procedural rules is impossible

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Feb 26, 2010 at 14:36


It is nearly a certainty that Democrats will use the budget reconciliation procedure to finish health reform.  In response, Republicans are going to try and make the country angry about Democrats taking this procedural approach.

Republicans will fail miserably in their efforts.  This is because it is impossible to make all that much of the country angry over Senate procedure.

Consider the 2005 filibuster fight as an example.  At the time, only one in three Americans said they were following that fight even "somewhat closely," according to Pew:

That is a pathetically low level of interest in what was the largest Senate procedural fight of the last decade.  Only 14% of the country, including 12% of independents, followed it "very closely."

There are going to be conflicting polls about whether the country thinks Democrats should use reconciliation or not.  However, what no poll will show is that the country actually cares that much about Senate process, or follows it closely.

Whenever Republicans complain about reconciliation, it will go in one ear of the American people and out the other.  The same goes for when Democrats complain about excessive Republican filibusters.  Only 26% of the country even knows that it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate, so good luck angering the country about Republican procedural obstruction.

Given how little the country cares about procedure, there is nothing to lose by using whatever procedural means necessary to achieve your legislative ends.  If they do go on to finish health reform using budget reconciliation, Senate Democrats should learn from this.  Don't fear the procedure.

Chris Bowers :: Angering the country over Senate procedural rules is impossible

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.. (0.00 / 0)
The numbers you take are from 2005 under a republican president. Even if people have no clue what the discussion is about, I can see it being a new talking point that they will "care" about and always bring  up. Much like people brought up tort reform when they have no idea what it is or how it would help, they just hear people talking about it so they talk about it.
Do you think that's a possible change? I feel like 5 years ago was pretty different in regards to the "climate" of political discussions by non-politically-inclined people

Huh? (4.00 / 1)
They are less likely to care now rather than more.  

[ Parent ]
Couldn't agree more (4.00 / 1)
Once again, the liberal blogs are a year ahead of the curve.  The netroots has been painfully aware of this for a very long time.

I hope that staffers are reading you closely and taking note.


Of course... (4.00 / 2)
You're talking about Republicans who have, in general, been pretty good at sticking to talking points and blabbing their garbage all over the air versus Democrats who cower in fear that anyone will criticize them for taking the wrong side of an issue.

You're probably right in that people LIKELY won't care about reconciliation, but comparing what the public knew/cared about when Democrats were trying to obstruct the Republicans is a lot different than what the public might know/care about when Republicans are obstructing Democrats.  


Exactly - plus, reconciliation feeds the teabaggers (0.00 / 0)
It all depends on who's selling and who's buying.

The Dems getting folks going about the 'No fair!' of the filibuster is a non-starter - but the problem isn't the geekiness of the rules fixation but the impression that those complaining are whiners who just need to 'get out of the kitchen'. (Underpinned by the GOP narrative that the Dems are the Establishment, so GOP filibusters are the Little Guy just trying to fight back.)

Whereas - the GOP can portray the Dems using reconciliation to pass health care as some kind of coup d'état. (They'll have plenty of quotes from Bobby Byrd and others to help them, of course.)

And it's a cinch to get the teabaggers to add 2 and 2 together and make 1776, with accompanying ballyhoo from Fox, the talkers and other usual suspects.

Don't think the possibility of health care reconciliation coming down the pike hadn't occurred to those behind setting up the teabaggers (it occurred to Clinton during Hillarycare).

Compare and contrast what the Senate Dems did with Bunning when he kiboshed extending unemployment and COBRA...


[ Parent ]
The poll only confirms what everybody knew. (0.00 / 0)
For the vast majority, it never goes any farther than whether Congress/the government gets something done. Beyond that, it attaches praise or blame to the party perceived as being in power. The fear and trembling about "procedure" is not about voters, it's about the media windbags and gopper talking points, neither of which has the slightest shot at getting people interested in the arcane and dysfunctional jerkoff that is Senate procedure.

You echo the progressive CW (4.00 / 2)
And I think it's mostly wrong.

While of course the public doesn't care about procedure as a rule, or in isolation, there are exceptions, like the showdown between Newt and Clinton on shutting down the government, and this is on that level, probably greater.

This is pushing through a huge, unpopular corporate-coddling trillion dollar bill (the effects of which most people won't feel for months, if ever) on a party-line vote over the course of months as the GOP and the corporate media scream bloody murder, and as unemployment hovers at 10 percent.

It would be a whole other ball game if Dems could get it done in a day or two then move on. Or if the bill were popular (the PO would help, of course) but it ain't, and it gets even more unpopular when it's only the Dems voting for it. A few months ago a party-line HRC bill polled at like 30 percent.

I'm not saying this is reason not to use reconciliation. I'm saying the politics aren't pretty.


Your argument rests on the claim (0.00 / 0)
that nothing in this bill will have any visible effect. That's a huge and unlikely assumption, seems to me. Among people I know, there's nobody whose circle won't be affected by the insurance regulation aspects, at the very least. You seem to think there's all this popular interest in the deficit and the insuranceco coddling, as you call it. What people now care about is jobs and healthcare. If the Dems are seen as doing something about both they'll be OK. Nobody outside the windbag classes care how they do it.

Hopefully, it will be GOP bullshit like Bunning's personal filibuster against extending unemployment benefits and health coverage to the laid-off that will get people's attention, not some asinine and arbitrary Senate rules. Hopefully it will be shit like that that give some credibility to abolishing the Senate.


[ Parent ]
No (4.00 / 1)
I'm not saying that "nothing in this bill will have any visible effect." I'm saying that many of the effects won't be visible for quite some time and some of the negative effects will be immediately visible.

For example:

She said that the insurance industry cannot be forced to accept people irrespective of preexisting conditions until everyone is required to have insurance, and that the administration does not want such a requirement until the exchanges are up and running.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

First the mandate, then the regulation. I'm not sure if this delay is still in effect -- I hope not -- but in any case, I think we can all agree that a bill now polling around 40 percent won't be widely praised for a long time, if ever. At least until November it'll be about spin and perception, and I see no reason to believe that Dems will win the political battle that they've so far lost.
And then there'll be the weeks and months in which the GOP brings the Senate to a standstill while other business gets ignored.


[ Parent ]
This is an argument for getting the bill right rather than for process (4.00 / 3)
Even in your formulation it is not process that moves voters, but what comes out of the process. I think that argues for why one should try for the best and most popular bill rather than worrying about process. By best, I mean policies that will positively affect voters where they feel it- in their own lives. Your point seems to be because the bill is not a good one, that this means process matters? But, again- that's not a debate over process. Not really.

[ Parent ]
Right (0.00 / 0)
An unseemly process exaggerates/confirms the dynamic. If a bill is popular -- a jobs bill, say -- no one will care if the Dems use reconciliation to pass it and, for that matter, if a bill is popular the GOP would take months touting their opposition.  

[ Parent ]
Yes, exactly. (0.00 / 0)
Process debates serves the status quo because the status quo is vested in the process more so than progressive reform is. Outcome debates serves progressive reform because our arguments are dependent on outcomes rather than what is already established. The further you get into process over policy debates, the more you favor the status quo. Even when progressives are talking about reforming process, the issue is not the process itself, but what it will then allow. When the status quo discusses process, and even the reform of process, the issue is to change the subject to something that the status quo can control. "Oh sorry, we couldn't get the public option because we needed 60...50 votes." WHen it comes to eating a chicken burger, you don't care how the burger got made so long as it is safe, fill of nutrients and tastes great. What's the sure fired way to convince you not to like the chicken burger? To tell you how the chicken burger got made.  

[ Parent ]
analogy should read (0.00 / 0)
what the sure fired way to convince you to not eat the chicken burger.? To tell you out the chicken burger got made before they eat the burger. what;s the sure fire way to make sure no one cares, to tell them how it got made after they are already eating the burger.

[ Parent ]
analogy should read (0.00 / 0)
what the sure fired way to convince you to not eat the chicken burger.? To tell you out the chicken burger got made before they eat the burger. what;s the sure fire way to make sure no one cares, to tell them how it got made after they are already eating the burger.

[ Parent ]
Right (0.00 / 0)
An unseemly process exaggerates/confirms the dynamic. If a bill is popular -- a jobs bill, say -- no one will care if the Dems use reconciliation to pass it and, for that matter, if a bill is popular the GOP would take months touting their opposition.  

[ Parent ]
If you flip that number on it's head.. (0.00 / 0)
... then only about 40% aren't really paying attention. The other 60% are, to varying degrees. That doesn't seem terribly unusual to me. In fact, I'm surprised that 40% number isn't a lot higher.

To wit, given that Lucy takes away the football on every major issue about every other week, I'm surprised most people haven't traded in their TeeVees for pitchforks and torches.

Personally, I'd be more interested in knowing how people poll on their expectations of what will happen, not whether they're paying attention to process or not. I also think gauging PO on matter of process isn't what matters. It's what they want to happen that matters, ie, results matter more than process.

Are people going to care about the process by which the Senate Dems let Bunning off the hook and took away the UI extension for 1.2 million people next week? Somehow I doubt it. Will they care that their friends, relatives and neighbors will be left without any means of support as a result?

My own hunch is YES.

Process is becoming a bit of a sideshow at this point. The more liberals and progressives publicly focus on process, the sillier we appear to people who really need results. Everyone has to play inside baseball, but it doesn't matter one whit to those who desperately need help.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


I think you're misreading the situation (0.00 / 0)
The gops are not selling this as a procedural issue in isolation.

The Republican case is that this is a bad bill, and, oh by the way, the Democrats are trying to illegally or scuzzily ram it through using an extraordinary procedure.

If it's a good bill and people know it's a good bill, the procedural aspect to the argument is irrelevant.

If it's a bad bill, that's bad enough, but that it's bad and that it's being rammed through using an extraordinary procedure induces popular anger.

People already believe it's a questionable bill, at best, thanks to months of gop obstinance, Democratic dithering, and media malpractice.

If Democrats don't make the case that this is a good bill, the procedural aspect makes people angry ("you're trying to ram this thing down our throats in the deep of night! socialists!") and Republicans win.


yeah... (0.00 / 0)
the "ram through" sounds really bad. And reconciliation sounds overly "Washington"; they lost that word game (again)

[ Parent ]
This is what big bucks knows... (0.00 / 0)
...it doesn't cost much to pay Senators off.

What progressives really need to do is get more money than rich people have and buy as many Senators as possible. If we were able, they'd be willing. It's unethical, but/and who cares?


You're Very Wrong (0.00 / 0)
The debate over HCR is in full throat in this country and Americans will be an extremely receptive audience to GOP screams (and they will be screams) that Democrats forced this unpopular bill into law using a procedural shortcut that was never meant to be used for anything this socially transformational. You couldn't ask for, in fact, a grander campaign bullseye for the GOP. Using reconciliation for this bill screams shady, back-room political hackery and Republicans will absolutely annihilate Democrats with it in November.

If the choice is passing the bill this way and not passing it at all you'll be far, far better off not to pass it.

re: bs (0.00 / 0)
Democrats forced this unpopular bill into law using a procedural shortcut that was never meant to be used for anything this socially transformational.

the house passed the bill in november, and the senate passed the bill in december. there was no procedural shortcut

Using reconciliation for this bill screams shady, back-room political hackery

the bill has already passed

and Republicans will absolutely annihilate Democrats with it in November.

dems may lose in november but it won't be because they used reconciliation. it will be because they didn't listen to their voters and break-up the banks, pass a bigger and with fewer tax-cuts stimulus, and pass a public option

If the choice is passing the bill this way and not passing it at all you'll be far, far better off not to pass it.

the bill has already passed


[ Parent ]
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