Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Keep the filibuster

The House of Representatives is going to vote to repeal the health reform bill soon.  I’m in an unusual position, for me, on the bill itself.  I have never been a partisan in this fight, either for or against it, but have been watching with curiosity.  Some things I like and some things I dislike. 

I don’t believe the Democrats’ claim that the bill will save money when you add 30 million to the roles of health care.  I think that they gamed the bill so as to get a savings projection from the Congressional Budget Office even though it will cost more, probably a lot more, and could do real harm by driving deficits way up and cutting Medicare and Medicaid assistance.  Plus, I really wonder why it is constitutional to force people to buy something – in this case, insurance.

But, I’m appalled that insurance companies can deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, which a huge percentage of people have, or can drop coverage of people when they are sick, and that so many people in our country have no health coverage.

What I do note, however, it’s that the House of Representatives can do whatever the majority party can agree within itself to do – pass the health care bill when the Dems were in charge, and repeal the health care bill when the Reps are in charge.  And, more to the point, in each case the other party is pretty much completely closed out of the process. 

I understand that the Reps were intransigently against Pelosi, but I think she brought it on herself, and I understand that Boehner realizes that he is only passing a symbolic bill so he doesn’t want to waste a bunch of time on it when there are better things to do, but the point is that the House is set up to ignore minority opinions.

Thus, I reluctantly conclude that it is very important that the Senate should never eliminate the filibuster.  If it ever does so, the Senate will just become another version of the House where the majority slams things through without any space for minority debate and alternatives – i.e. without the exercise of politics itself: negotiation and compromise.

It seems wrong that the Senate needs 60% of the votes to pass anything, but that restriction guarantees debate and guarantees the influence of the minority party to slow down and modify what the majority is trying to pass.  This gives voice to parts of the country not represented by the majority party. 

I think this is vital to the longevity of democracy itself, for without legitimate expressions of minority voices violence can seem to be the only option to the disenfranchised.