Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mastering the Senate

As a student of politics and government, I love the US Senate. Really. Sure it can be incredibly frustrating, but to watch it in action is fascinating. The best description I have found is in Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson, Master of the Senate. The tradition of unlimited debate and the associated two-thirds vote requirement for cloture gives each senator a chance to include something for his or her favorite constituency, until the magic number of votes is reached.

For a small picture of how it works, check out this article by Robert Pear in the January 3 New York Times about the health care bill. A summary:

Republicans complained of “sweetheart deals,” payoffs and kickbacks. But the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, brushed aside the criticism.

“There’s a hundred senators here, and I don’t know if there is a senator that doesn’t have something in this bill that was important to them,” Mr. Reid said. “If they don’t have something in it important to them, then it doesn’t speak well of them. That’s what this legislation is all about. It’s the art of compromise.”

Here's what it has for Nebraska, and here's the new Lousiana Purchase. And here's a more general description. Mr. Reid probably overstates things when he says that all 100 senators have something in the bill. I think it is more like 60.


David Harlow said...

Gotta love it. I laughed out loud when I read that same selection in the NYT piece.

Anonymous said...

I am sure there is nothing in the bill for hospitals, particularly academic medical centers, Paul....

Anonymous said...

Of course there is. Did you think I was complaining?!