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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Obstruction and the Filibuster

Arguing against the Senate filibuster in The Washington Post, Ezra Klein writes:
The government can function if the minority party has either the incentive to make the majority fail or the power to make the majority fail. It cannot function if it has both.

In decades past, the parties did not feel they had both. Cooperation was the Senate's custom, if not its rule. But in the 1990s, Newt Gingrich, then the minority whip of the House, and Bob Dole, then the minority leader of the Senate, realized they did have both. A strategy of relentless obstruction brought then-president Bill Clinton to his knees, as the minority party discovered it had the tools to make the majority party fail.
This account of the first two years of the Clinton presidency is inaccurate. In 1993 and 1994, President Clinton won over 86 percent of the time on the congressional votes on which he took a position, the highest success rate in nearly 30 years. True, the Clinton health plan failed, but it is inaccurate to blame obstructive floor tactics, since the measure did not even reach the floor of either chamber. On another key issue, indeed, Republicans gave him a key victory in spite of his own party. Strong GOP support enabled the North American Free Trade Agreement to pass even though most House and Senate Democrats voted against it.