by Bob Geary
The Nation's John Nichols notes that North Carolina's Elizabeth Dole was one of the minority of Senate Republicans not voting to block -- on a cloture vote -- the $14 billion auto industry rescue package this week. In other words, Dole might not have liked the auto bailout, but she was at least willing to let a majority of the Senate decide in an up-or-down vote. (Our other Republican senator, Richard Burr, was with the blockers.)
Unfortunately, the penchant of Senate Republicans, including Dole, to threaten filibusters against virtually anything progressive that came their way from the House (or the real world, for that matter), is why they had to go.
Maybe there's some justice to the idea that 41 of 100 senators should be able once in a while to stand on principle (a la "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington") against legislation that the House, the President and the public all support. (It would make sense, for example, if the minority were standing up for civil liberties and against mass hysteria. That's precisely when it doesn't happen, however.)
But the "modern" use of the filibuster, in effect requiring 60 votes to pass any consequential bill through the Senate, is the second-most undemocratic aspect of our constitutional structure -- second only to the Senate itself, with two senators per state regardless of population.