Is 60 the Magic Number?

Friday, January 22, 2010


The media reminded us over and over this week that the Democrats' 60th vote was at stake in the Massachusetts special election even though a bill only needs 51 votes to pass the Senate. It is ending a filibuster that requires 60 yay's. James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, says the media have done a poor job of clarifying this point, thereby obscuring a historic shift in the democratic process.

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Comments [7]

Bernie Windham from Tallahassee, Fl

Most people don't understand the main reason Coakley lost Massachusetts

She let her opponent get away with misleading the public and media about the cause of the current major problems and shifting the blame for the things most are concerned about from the Republicans who primarily were the cause of the continuing problems to herself and the Democrats (similar to what is occurring elsewhere). The problems are still with us and won't go away soon. They will have to be faced and dealt with and the solutions aren't easy or to be resolved by wishful thinking.
The big one that has not been faced is:

Fiscal Irresponsibility of the last 3 Republican Administrations : debt, energy dependency, capital outflow, transfer of wealth, and economic decline

Fiscal Irresponsibility of the last 3 Republican Administrations :
Unprecedented massive U.S. national debt, trade deficits, capital outflow and wealth transfer to other countries, and redistribution of wealth from poor and middle class to the ultra- rich. (documentation)

Jan. 27 2010 06:33 PM
Robert Potter from Manlius, NY

The main mistake the Senate made was to lower the "price" of a filibuster to zero: nobody has to talk through the night, no other important legislation gets held up. Before that rule change, a filibuster was rare because it was hard to pull off. The minority had to be REALLY motivated to pull it off physically and to weather the inevitable negative press that came from the total paralysis the Senate would be in during the filibuster.

Jan. 24 2010 07:17 PM
C'mon Paul from China

Paul, the only bias is yours, not his. Facts are facts; the filibuster is being used far more often now than ever before, and it is a profoundly anti-democratic and anti the spirit of the Constitution tactic.

Jan. 24 2010 06:33 PM
PaulH from Boston, MA

Wow, what a biased piece. It seemed to downplay the use of the filibuster by Democrats to block Civil Rights legislation during the 60's, notably pointing to Strom Thurmond as an example, but neglecting to point out that he was a Democrat at the time. Democrat use of the filibuster was never labelled as such; only 'the filibuster was used to delay judicial appointees during the first six years of the Bush administration. Disappointing...

Jan. 24 2010 04:55 PM
AnneF from Alaska

Thanks for pointing out the details. I wish the good government reformers spoke up more frequently to say that a decent bill agreed to by 51 senators can be a good law.

Jan. 24 2010 03:00 PM
IvyB from Philadelphia

Some of the information in the story about the history of the filibuster was incorrect. See link below.

Apart from that I very much agree with the points that the media coverage has been very sloppy. People who don't pay careful attention to politics now think that you must have 60 votes to pass legislation rather than 60 votes to block opposition to anything. When the Democrats threatened to filibuster bad judicial nominees, the Republican response was the "nuclear option" to get rid of the filibuster. There must be more responsibility.

Jan. 24 2010 11:47 AM
Kahlid from Philly PA

The 60 rule is an appropriate response for bills coming out of meetings that have excluded all minority members.

Sometimes these backroom deals will even exclude majority party committee members.

Jan. 22 2010 10:56 PM

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