July 11, 2010
How to Deter the "Lame Donkey" Congress of 2010?
In yesterday's post (from here in "sunny" San Diego, on holiday), we warned once more -- this time echoed by John Fund of the Wall Street Journal -- that the critical time for a massive last-gasp of liberal-fascist legislation from the Long Congress will be after the November 2nd congressional elections, but before the new 112th Congress is sworn in on January 3rd; that is, when many Democrats will have already lost, and therefore have nothing left to lose (and a seething, bitter anger at the electorate which dumped them). The question before us is, what to do, what to do?
Our counterstrategy must be threefold:
- Consolidate our own members.
- Recruit Democratic representatives and senators who still plan to run for reelection in 2012.
- And most important, get the American people up to speed... and explain to them exactly why we mustn't take up substantive, controversial bills during that period.
First above all, make the case to the voters
Let's take the last first, as it is the rhetorical infrastructure that underlies everything else we can do. The important point to make with the voters, again and again, is this: "The people have spoken: America has already elected a new Congress. So major policy changes must wait until the people's new choices are sworn in."
That is a very winnable position; but we cannot wait until after the election to begin arguing it; by then it will be too late to affect polling, and it's the polls that can scare delicate Dems (and recalcitrant RINOs) away from taking advantage of a self-styled "crisis."
The GOP needs to start making its case against a Lame-Donkey onslaught of Obamunism right now, today, long before the election, in order to have a hope of recruiting Democrats against a Long Congress.
Maintain party discipline
This is a no-brainer. We have virtually no chance of stopping any of the Lame-Donkey outrages in the House: If even a slim majority of Democrats holds together, then no matter how many others break ranks, the Left can ram through anything Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) wants.
Our only hope is in the Senate, where the minority has much greater power to stop legislation -- or slow it, which is just as good in this case.
The first necessity is to hold all Republicans to party discispline... or at least all that we can. Our most powerful weapon is the filibuster; but the Democrats' most devastating response would be the putative "nuclear option," also called the Byrd option.
In the Byrd option (here is a primer at Wikipedia), the Parliamentarian of the United States Senate (currently Alan Frumin), rules a filibuster "out of order;" then the Democrat majority votes to affirm this ruling. This essentially allows a filibuster to be broken by a simple majority, not the 60 votes usually needed... assuming the majority is willing to overturn all previous traditions, precedents, and understandings of the Senate and among senators.
First, let's assume they don't use the nuclear option. In that case, it's just a numbers game: Can we lasso at least as many Democrats as we lose Republicans, thus preventing cloture? It's dicey, but I think even the perennial "stick-pokers" would hestitate to enrage voters so blatantly... particularly those GOP senators themselves up for reelection in 2012.
Some of our senators may need more herding that others, including Lindsey Graham (SC, 88%), Charles Grassley (IA, 96%), Scott Brown (MA, not yet rated), and the Maine twins, Susan Collins (48%) and Olympia Snowe (48%). We need solid polling that shows voters will be enraged not only at outgoing Democrats who try to thwart the will of the people, but also against their Republican "enablers" who remain in Congress after January.
And we need the credible threat that any GOP senator who aids and abets Democrats trying to ram Obamunism through during the Lame-Donkey period will be completely cut off from any party funding and NRSC- or RNC-controlled volunteer organization in 2012.
Since Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts, the GOP controls 41 Senate seats; if they stand firm, that is all it takes to filibuster legislation, if Democrats reject the Byrd option. If they go for it, everything gets much messier -- see below.
Hook a few Democrats
Joe Lieberman (ID-CT, 95% Democratic) is up for reelection in 2012 (class I); other class-I Democratic senators who are somewhat more moderate include Ben Nelson (NE, 70%) and perhaps whoever replaces Robert Byrd in the West Virginia U.S. Senate seat. These three Democrats are potential votes against cloture, if we can get them worrying about how such a usurpation will affect their own reelections in two years. We might be able to use these Democrats to replace one or (maybe) two GOP turncoats.
But the real danger comes if the Democrats decide to go for the Byrd option anyway, and damn the consequences. Remember, if they succeed in killing the filibuster, they will have free rein to enact anything they want; they can rampage like a bull in a candy store.
But it's not so easy as snapping their fingers; it requires the corrupt connivance of the Senate Parliamentarian, Alan Frumin. He must start the procedure by ruling a filibuster of a bill out of order.
There are two firewalls against the Byrd option: First, Frumin is widely considered to be fair and honest, and he likely would balk at such a ruling; but he could be removed by the majority Democrats and replaced with someone who is more pliant. But the second firewall is entirely within the hands of the GOP. Here, in a nuthouse, is what happened the last time the Byrd option was discussed back in 2005 (from the Wikipedia entry linked above):
The maneuver was brought to prominence in 2005 when then-Majority Leader Bill Frist (Republican of Tennessee) threatened its use to end Democratic-led filibusters of judicial nominees submitted by President George W. Bush. In response to this threat, Democrats threatened to shut down the Senate and prevent consideration of all routine and legislative Senate business.
This is the real answer to the conundrum of the Lame-Donkey Congress: Republicans filibuster; and if the Democrats threaten with the Byrd option to short-circuit the filibuster, the Republicans must shut the United States Senate down hard until the new Congress is seated on January 3rd.
It can be done. Senate rules are so Byzantine, so empowering to individual senators, that virtually nothing can be done without "unanimous consent" for this or that procedural shortcut. Withhold that consent, and the ponderous machinery grinds to a halt.
That is the secret to stop a runaway Senate; that is what makes the upper body the "saucer" to the House's "coffee cup": As John Adams explained to Thomas Jefferson, the overheated passions of the cup are poured into the saucer precisely in order to cool them.
Ruthlessness in defense of liberty is no vice
I believe that if we succeed in step 1 above, explaining to the American people how anti-democratic such a Long Congress is, then voters will back us no matter how far the Democrats force us to go to stop the imposition of Obamunism. Americans simply do not like radicalism, and particularly radical curtailment of their own liberties.
If the Democrats persist, I believe the damage to their brand will be deep, irreparable, and possibly politically fatal. When the 2012 elections roll around, not only will President Barack H. Obama be denied a second term, but the "Republican realignment" will be completed by the routing of Senate and House Democrats for a second election in a row, the mirror image of 2006 and 2008.
Realizing that, I suspect the Democrats would not even be able to get the 51 votes needed to override the GOP objection to the ruling from the Senate Parliamentarian terminating the filibuster -- assuming they can even get the Parliamentarian to so rule, for such an obviously political purpose, so diametrically opposed to "the consent of the governed."
If we stand firm, we can prevent the Lame-Donkey disaster from even occurring, or else shatter it if the Democrats actually try it. But considering that we're relying upon the Senate Republicans, that is still a mighty big "if" indeed.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 11, 2010, at the time of 9:09 PM
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The following hissed in response by: Freetime
OT, but I see the Polanski pool closed today. It appears that Chris Hunt is the winner unless someone else got in later.
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