Thursday, May 19, 2011

Unicameralism forever

The Senate filibustered the nomination of liberal Goodwin Liu to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today.

First off, bummer. Liu was a good nominee and the federal judiciary is already perilously understaffed.

Second off, looks like we're taking yet another step towards the US Senate being the perpetual and omnipresent Check in our system of Checks and Balances. Signed a treaty? Hope the Senate likes it! Want to nominate the judge? Hope he's blandly moderate enough for the Senate! Passed a bill through the House? Hope a handful of senators don't decide to hold it hostage for kicks (or kickbacks)!

The Senate's ongoing evolution becomes more bitterly ironic when you think about the high esteem in which senators hold themselves. The Senate actually describes itself as the "World's Greatest Deliberative Body" and most senators seem to agree. It's not clear to me how a deliberative body can be the world's greatest when its sole function in our current system of government is basically telling the other parts of the government what they are and are not allowed to do. Maybe the focus is on the "deliberative" part, and it's true, the Senate certainly does do a lot "deliberating." Months and months worth, for every tiny little dinky bill that escapes its clutches. Of course, even then, calling the legislative process as it takes place in the Senate "deliberation" insults actual decision-makers everywhere. The Senate works something like this:

1. The idea for a bill appears. Generally the bill is proposed by the President or passed up from the House.

2. The bill dies in committee.

On good days, it works like this:

1. The idea for a bill appears. Generally the bill is proposed by the President or passed up from the House.

2. It passes through committees.

3. Someone forms a Gang of Four/Six/Twelve/Twenty. Speeches are made.

4. The motion to begin debate is filibustered.

In purely theoretical terms, Item Number Four means that senators are unable to stop debating whether to have a debate over a bill.

In less theoretical terms, this is probably the most idiotic mobius strip of retarded parliamentary reasoning you will ever encounter anywhere or anytime in your life. The W.G.D.B. is paralyzed on a daily basis by its endless "deliberation" of whether or not it should deliberate in the first place. Think about that. Or don't, your head might explode. "US Senate v. a bill or nomination or treaty" is like "WOPR v. Tic Tac Toe" or "Windows Vista v. a PDF file" or "a supercomputer that has never heard of logical paradoxes v. Captain Kirk." Except the computers also have the good sense to shut down or blow up or BSOD and otherwise embrace sweet, sweet oblivion. By contrast the army of blowhards in the Senate are quite content to do nothing forever, all the while reminding us of the Ancient And Honorable Tradition of Debate in the Senate.

The Senate should be stripped of its name and its history. It's not a legislative body anymore. It's the Government Oversight Office, a massively hypertrophied rubber-stamping body that exists to tangle up the rest of the government as it tries to do its job. It should be given a new name more reflective of its function. Something long-winded and bureaucratic, like the Committee for Reconsideration of Activities Proposed by Other Legislative Agencies. And then the whole worthless thing should be dumped into the sea.

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