Dodd: Senate “a dysfunctional institution”; Senators need to start acting like Senators; “were about to abandon the essence of the Senate”
A long, long time ago… Way back in 2006, the blogosphere was still pretty novel, at least as far as the Democratic establishment was concerned. Back then, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi (and even Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emmanuel!) thought it’d be a neat idea to hold fairly regular conference calls with leading bloggers. They’d take questions and everything!
I participated in two such calls in the wake of the 2006 elections. As you’ll recall, the Democrats won majorities in both the House and the Senate.
Bloggers were ecstatic. We couldn’t wait to see our leaders do to Republicans how they did done us for most of the Bush years… We thought it’d be a no-brainer that the new Congress would make Republicans live by the rules they established when they were in power…
Alas… That was not to be.
Both Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, within days of the election, told bloggers that the new rules would establish a climate of robust bipartisanship. Although they admitted that the Republican majority had operated under rules designed to neuter the Democratic minority and had deployed every conceivable parliamentary maneuver to get around whatever slight Democratic prerogative remained, the new Democratic majorities in both houses were determined to treat the Republican minority fairly. In short, many of the rules the Republicans had enacted when they controlled Congress would be reversed; Democrats would not use the power of their majorities to neuter the Republican minorities.
Buy, that worked out well, huh? Just look what it’s gotten them!
So now you have Senator Casey telling me that the Democratic caucus is looking at ways to change the rules of the Senate to get around the filibuster. We’ve seen Senator Tom Udall take the floor and rail against the rule-making process in general and the filibuster rule more specifically.
But that’s not the whole story…
There are still old-time Democrats that treasure the institution of the Senate. Senator Dodd is one of them.
I had previously spoken with him about Republican obstruction and, without prompt, the Senator launched a full-throated defense of the filibuster, eventually saying that it was part of what made the Senate the Senate and should not be abandoned.
Remembering those words, when I ran into him yesterday, I asked what he thought of reconciliation and recess appointments. He never answered that question, but he had some pretty strong words for the conduct of certain Senators (that remained unnamed), saying they needed to “start acting like Senators”.
But perhaps the most revealing thing Senator Dodd said was that because the Senate is currently dysfunctional, “because we’re frustrated right now over an abusive use of a historic vehicle that led to the essence of what the Senate is, we’re about to abandon the essence of the Senate.”
That came after he said, “I’m saddened in a way… the reason the Senate works is because the chemistry of the membership makes it work. That’s why it takes unanimous consent to do almost anything. And the essence of the Senate was basically a longer, slower look at things.”