by John Walters

I Don’t Understand The Filibuster, Either

We’ve all seen Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, right? That’s probably the extent of our knowledge on how the Senate filibuster works. If you are really, really, really against a bill being passed, you can stand up and start arguing against it and as long as you keep talking and refuse to yield back your time, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop you (just make sure you take a potty break before you embark on this mission). It’s like a Hail Mary pass of legislation and a test of one’s physical stamina and perseverance. A little like a Spartan Race inside the Senate chamber.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work. While it only takes a majority of 51 votes to pass a bill, it takes a supermajority of 60% (60 votes if everyone is voting) to end debate on a bill, so that the vote may be taken. So if you never get enough votes to end the debate, then the bill never comes up for a vote. And as Jefferson Smith taught us in that Frank Capra film, you stall debate by reading the Bible, the scout handbook, anything, in order to hold the floor and prevent the vote that ends the debate.

So a couple things I learned this morning:

  1. “Filibuster” is derived from the Dutch word for pirate. I don’t get the connection, but you can dig deeper into that.
  2. Senate Rule XXII (not the one where the Redskins mauled the Broncos) says that cloture—a motion to end debate on a bill—requires a supermajority of at least 60 votes. Which is another way of saying that having a simple majority of the 100 senators is not enough to pass a bill as long as at least 41 senators choose to obstruct that passage. And by invoking the filibuster, they choose to obstruct.
  3. The 60-vote filibuster has only been around since 1917, so don’t pin this one on “the Founders.”

In 2013, the Democrat-controlled Senate voted in a rule that all nominations except that for Supreme Court need only a simple majority. Just three years later the Senate, now under Republican control, said, “A ha, two can play that game” and extended the rule of a simple majority to Supreme Court nominations, which is how we got stuck with Brett Kavanaugh.

Now, since the early 1970s, the Senate has imposed what is known as the “silent filibuster.” Now you no longer need to drone on endlessly for hours (the longest such filibuster campaign was waged by South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond, who spoke for more than 24 hours in 1957 to protest the Civil Rights Act… but, of course). Instead, as long as at least 41 senators threaten a filibuster, the Senate majority leader can refuse to call a vote.

It’s a lot like the modern intentional walk rule in baseball. You don’t even need to throw the four balls any more. You just let the ump know you want the batter on first base. Takes all the effort—and fun—out of it.

I can’t say I understand why if Chuck Schumer (a Dem) is the current Senate majority leader why he allows the silent filibuster to happen. Not sure why he doesn’t force someone from the GOP side of the aisle to stand up and talk ad nauseam. Maybe it’s just a gentleman’s agreement (ha!) but it’s certainly wrong.

Meanwhile, West Virginia Dem. senator Joe Manchin says he will not vote to end the filibuster because he “does not want to destroy democracy.” Which shows that he has a poor grasp of what the term means. Because by insisting on keeping the filibuster he is in favor of not allowing democracy—a majority vote—to prevail.

And so that’s why the Senate approving a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission, when 50 of the senators are GOP and House Minority leader Mitch McConnell is asking them to filibuster the vote “as a personal favor,” is unlikely to come to a vote.*

*I think. Please school me where I’m wrong. I have to move on to other matters.

Rule No. 7

As longtime readers know, Rule No. 7 states that “any baseball game offers the opportunity to see something you’ve never before seen in the game (and the other team sports are just not like that).” The crazy thing here is that there were two outs. All Pirate first baseman Will Craig need do is turn around, step on the bag and the inning is over. He got lazy and now this moment of infamy will live for as long as social media does. Certainly it will outlive his career.

Overdraft Dodger

We’ve gotten so accustomed to congresswoman Katie Porter or Senator Elizabeth Warren stuff the Montgomery J. Burnses of the world in a locker—and yes, they almost always deserve it—that we may have forgotten to ask, Do the merits of the argument hold up? When Porter was holding J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s feet to the flames a year or two ago about the shamefully low wages his company pays to its tellers, etc., I was on her side.

Two days ago, though, when Sen. Warren upbraided Dimon for the > $1 billion in overdraft fees his company collected in 2020, I thought, Wait a minute. Isn’t an overdraft fee a bit like paying an overdue fee for a library book except that in the library-book scenario the consumer did not actually cost the library money? In other words, when Warren asked if Dimon would pay everyone back and he said, flatly, “No,” I thought, Neither would I.

An overdraft fee is the fee you pay when you withdraw more money from the bank than you actually have in your account. And the bank floats you that money. If I go to Whole Foods and buy $27 worth of goods but only have $20, they don’t let me take everything I bought out of the store. And why should they? So why should any bank give you more money than you have in it, unless you’ve formally applied for a loan? Which is essentially what an overdraft fee is: interest on a loan that you took out from the bank without actually clearing it with the bank first.

Sorry, Not Sorry

As Jerry used to say on Seinfeld, “That’s a shame.”

You have to wonder what Officer Trujillo was thinking as they intubated him and put him on a respirator in the final days/hours of his life. Was he remembering Donald Trump’s advice from last October about Covid-19: “Don’t let it dominate you?” Was he experiencing any sense of remorse over having been so arrogant and boastful about a subject he was woefully under-qualified to wax eloquent upon (that’s never stopped me)? That age, 33, is awfully young to depart this planet. But of course, being MAGA I presume, he probably thought that any type of capitulation to the reality of a pandemic that’s killed 2.3 million people would be a sign of weakness on his part. And if there’s anything white male MAGA types hate (more than govt. handouts to poor people), it’s weakness.

Ignorance is okay. But weakness is shameful.

Now he’s dead. An apt metaphor for the current condition of the Republican Party.

The Kid

… won again as the Lakers iced the Suns in Game 3.

He’s now 9-4 and the bank is up to $1,340 (from a $1,000 base).

Tonight he likes a PARLAY!

VEGAS over Minnesota in Game 7 of their Stanley Cup playoff series AND

Brooklyn over BOSTON in Game 3 of their NBA playoff series.

Betting $100 to win $112.

If he loses, he loses $100. If he wins, he wins $112.

And The Kid is not even done. He wants a Saturday bet for the Champions League final, an all-England affair between Chelsea and Manchester City in… Portugal.

He’s putting down $345 to win $300 for ManCity over Chelsea, even though the Blues have beaten them twice in the past six weeks. So that’s our first Saturday bet.

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