Category Archives: Harry Reid

Harry Reid Busted the Filibuster

On Thursday night Majority Leader Harry Reid showed how big his bolas are, by using a rare parliamentary move that stopped Republicans from filibustering a bill that hopes to force China to raise its currency. Republicans were threatening to filibuster the final vote, even though a bipartisan group of Senators already voted to have the final vote.

The small group of Republicans that were going to use the filibuster was not even on the final vote but the votes on the amendments before it. It would have been another example of Washington not able to get things done because of politics. The Republicans who wanted to use the filibuster here should be thanking Reid for saving them from looking like fools. Senators from both sides would have been on TV saying how much they want to stick it to China while those Republicans on the Senate floor would be talking nonsense. But there are plenty of examples that can be used of Democrats in the minority doing the same thing. This action should be used to start a process that gets rid of the filibuster altogether.

Politico reported that “While the rules change may not seriously affect the substance of pending legislation, the process employed by Democrats could be replicated in the future to overhaul bedrock rules like the filibuster. For that reason, both parties have tried to avoid employing such tactics to change the rules over the last several congressional sessions, including in a fierce 2005 battle that nearly limited the use of the filibuster.” But with the frustrations that are pouring themselves in front of Wall Street, the Capitol, and across the country, it is about time something changes in Washington.

Sometimes the filibuster has been used by the minority to appeal to their base, where in case Americans who do not want to see the legislation passed are happy to see the filibuster take place. But this is still always a small constituency. This allows Senators to debate things they know has no chance of passing. So why have the debate? Because it appeals to their base and is something the Senator can say they did when they ask for their constituencies vote in the next election. When George W. Bush wanted to pass immigration reform, the Senate debated for hours on what to do but could only agree that English should be the official language of the country. But both sides liked the debate so leaders let it happen. If the filibuster did not exist though, more votes would have been taken putting members on the record, which is something they did not want to do. If the filibuster was not part of Senate rules members would have been forced to take a vote.

It is also fair to argue that without the filibuster more Americans would pay attention to what their Senators are up to. Since Senators are up for reelection every six years, they can usually take controversial votes without having to worry as much about political consequences because voters get their frustration out during the election the vote took place in. The Senate though does not always have to take these votes because someone usually filibusters it. But if there are large amounts of legislation that come to the floor and controversial votes pile up, more news would be written about it and Americans would pay attention. If the Senate decided to vote on privatizing Social Security, and there wasn’t a filibuster for someone to stop it, think about all the calls and letters that would fill their offices.

Maybe more importantly, better legislation would actually be voted on in the Senate. Getting rid of the filibuster would not make politicians want to take controversial votes, so theoretically, there would be less of them. That means less politics and more compromise. No Child Left Behind was a controversial bill that not everyone was in favor of, but it had a large amount of representatives on both sides who voted for it. That makes it a lot harder for it to have been a issue for a competitor to bring up in the next election.
It is true that the founding fathers wanted the Senate to be a place where cool heads would prevail. That is why they set it up so Senators were not even elected but instead appointed by state legislatures. That changed of course when the legislatures could not decide on who to send to Washington. The filibuster is not even in the constitution, it is just a Senate rule. Politics are inherent in any government, and that’s OK, sometimes it is even a good thing. But when it is time for things need to get done, more times than not the filibuster has been used to protect a small minorities interest rather than deciding what is good for the country as a whole.

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Filed under Filibuster, Harry Reid

Nuclear Puzzle

A guy named Gregory Jaczko is about to get more exposure to the media then he has ever wanted. He was appointed by President Obama in 2009 to be the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and will be testifying before Congress this coming week on a report that came out, from the NRC, that concluded “Mr. Jaczko failed to fully inform the other four members that he was issuing budget guidance that would essentially halt the commission’s work on the project, which was to decide whether the Energy Department should be allowed to build and operate the dump.”

The project they are talking about is Yucca Mountain, Nevada, which is about 90 miles away from Las Vegas. According to the article, Jaczko used to work for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has always been fighting to keep Yucca Mountain from becoming a permanent site for nuclear waste. During the 2008 election, Obama, while being in favor of nuclear energy, said many times Yucca Mountain will not become a place for nuclear storage. More information has come out since then making it clear Obama and Reid are close. It was Reid who convinced Obama to run for President, and when the Republican National Committee put millions into “Daschelzing” Reid last year, Obama held events and fundraisers in Nevada.

Policy wise though, it made no sense for Obama to be in favor of using nuclear energy but not store it at Yucca. Time and time again the NRC has said Yucca Mountain was the best place to store nuclear energy and was close to it in President (W’s) Bush’s first term. Bush signed the law to turn the area into a storage facility, only for it to be vetoed by the Governor, and then overturned by Congress.

As far as Jaczko is concerned, the report said he did not break any laws, but he obviously didn’t make any friends. Obama put him on the commission to look at other sites in the country that can be built for storage. It’s an example of a political appointment, and someone coming in with an agenda. It’s the nature of the game. But while other sites around the country are closer to residential areas, Yucca is closest to volcanic lava on federal land. Using nuclear energy is clean, creates jobs, is more efficient, and costs less than other forms of energy. According to World Nuclear the price of generating nuclear fuel is cheaper then coal and gas, making it cheaper for consumers in the long run. Readers know I want to visit Las Vegas again, but people don’t like to see wind turbines in their back yard, and solar power can’t be used everywhere or at any time.

I write a lot about how politics get in the way of good policies being put together, this is an example of that. At the same time, politics is also a necessary evil. If it wasn’t for Harry Reid, Obama may not have run for President, and of course the alternatives to a democracy/a republic don’t look to good. All the pundits were saying nuclear energy would take a step back after the earthquake in Japan, but eventually there’s going to be more nuclear plants in this country, it just makes too much sense. Designs for nuclear plants have improved since the one at Fukushima was built, and obviously we don’t have to build them on a fault line. There’s a smart way to do it, and eventually enough politicians will solve the puzzle to get it done.

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Filed under Clean Energy, Congress, Environment, global warming, Harry Reid, Nuclear, Politics, President Obama, Reid

Did The Republicans Really Win?

Like all political junkies, I wake up early on Sunday’s to watch the political talk shows to see what news, if any, is going to be made. This week consisted of the budget battle and the last minute deal that was reached on Friday. So I’m watching Meet The Press and This Week, and the consensus among the reporters was that because the Republicans pushed the Democrats around, and got the cuts they were asking for, they were the winners. But then I wondered: what else is new? While getting an agenda through Congress can sometimes equal a political victory, this policy victory won’t equal a political victory for the GOP.

Collectively, Congress has always had low approval ratings. It doesn’t matter what they do, people watch the debates on C-SPAN and see the overblown rhetoric used by politicians on the news, and guess what..they don’t like it. It gets to a point where both parties are looking like they are trying to save face (which they are) and really aren’t doing what they were elected to do, represent the people. The way the negotiations took place this week didn’t give American’s any more confidence in their government, and instead, showed both sides to be spoiled brats.

We still don’t know what the particulars are of the $38 billion that was cut, but who cares?! All the Republicans cared about was appeasing the Tea Party and cried for more cuts after getting what they originally asked for. I’m sure when John Boehner met with Harry Reid and President Obama at the White House, it was pointed out to him that polls consistently showed the majority of Republicans wanted a compromise. But all we got was more rhetoric and statements that argued for more cuts because it will help the economy or because abortions are bad. Both arguments are the crutch Republicans turn to when they know they reached too far, and people are sick of it.

The Republican’s also liked to say elections have consequences, which is true. If the Democrats kept the House last year none of this would have happened. A Continuing Resolution would have been passed to keep spending levels where they were and no one could have complained. It’s been done many times before. Even though they got their sound bites out there, the GOP never came up with one policy solution to help end the situation. If the government shut down it would have been their fault because they are the ones complaining.

In the meantime, Democrats looked like they didn’t even know what they stood for. Even though they still control the Senate and White House they weren’t able to get a strong message out. The way Boehner was acting was a gift for them. When he says that Government is the problem, Democrats should have reminded him of TARP (which he was in favor of) and how the program has actually earned America money. It was probably just easier for him to support it while George W. Bush was going to have to sign it into law. While Democrats can’t totally claim it was their idea, there is no reason they can’t use it to argue against Boehner’s assertion that government programs were hurting the economy.

I’m not going to go as far to say the Democrats won, but it’s hard for me to believe the Republicans took the trophy. American’s want to see their government work for them, and when they see both sides bickering over an issue that really isn’t going to help anyone, it makes them feel they don’t have the right people representing them. As both parties tried in the aftermath to position themselves as “winning” they need to realize at some point they are going to get booed off the stage.

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Filed under Budget, Congress, Harry Reid, John Boehner, Obama, Politics, Triangulation