Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Long Talk

Instead of just threatening a filibuster, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) delivered, speaking over eight hours from the Senate floor with just a couple of breaks. The subject was the Obama "compromise" with Republicans on extending the Bush tax breaks, which was no compromise at all since it gave the GOP and its masters just about everything in the federal store. Sen. Sanders made his point, repeating himself just in case folks missed key points the first time around.

"It has been a very long day," he said as he concluded his remarks, including a five-hour period in which he spoke without interruption. "I do believe that if the American people stand up … I think we can defeat this proposal. I think we can come up with a better proposal which better reflects the needs of the middle class." ...

"I'm not here to set any great records or to make a spectacle," he said at the start of his effort. "I am simply here today to take as long as I can to explain to the American people the fact that we have got to do a lot better than this agreement provides."

And explain he did. What he had to say resonated with enough of us who watched the live stream on his web site that we crashed it for a period of time. Many of us called his office to urge him on, which meant his staff had quite a long day as well.

I suppose an argument can be made that Sen. Sanders just delayed the inevitable. After all, as the LAT article makes clear, there was no real business scheduled for this particular Friday (as is usually the case because most congress critters are anxious to get home). But he did it anyway, and I think that filibuster may have some long term consequences, at least if we are lucky.

Ironically, one of the consequences is that several Republicans have openly voiced their displeasure with the deal. Sen. DeMint is unhappy with the "compromise," primarily because he discovered a few things in the federal store that his colleagues overlooked, and he wants it all. Sen. McCain tweeted his unhappiness with the deal (but then later indicated he would vote for it -- in typical McCain fashion).

At the same time, however, Sen. Sanders' long day, especially because it generated some excitement among the Democratic base, did give some cover to Democrats who happen to agree that the president gave up too much for too little. This will not be an easy vote, but it just became harder for Harry, and Sen. Reid obviously hates a real fight, especially one originating within his own ranks.

What would be the best consequence, however, would be a Congress who just said "NO!" to a president. We haven't seen that in ten years. The result would be a rebalancing of power, one that throws the "unitary executive" concept out the highest window in Washington DC.

And that would be a good thing.

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