Health care: filibuster the minority, keep Congress in session through the holidays if need be

by Kevin Marley

This year the in the United States Senate the majority party risks long-term annihilation if it does not do everything in its power to pass health care reform complete with a new government subsidized insurance program. To this end a traditional filibuster forced upon the minority by the Majority Leader instead of a winter recess, complete with round-the-clock sessions, continuous minority speeches, and a ready quorum of majority party senators, trumps letting the minority return home to conduct caustic town hall meetings. The Majority Leader could (and should) continue the current Senate session until its scheduled re-convention in January, at which time a weary nation would welcome the use of “budget reconciliation rules” to pass reform.

A full blown filibuster, where failure of the minority to hold the floor before a quorum of majority party senators determined to pass the bill, would require that all the Senate’s other business would already be finished and the only task left would be either session adjournment, or bill passage.

With the Senate’s agenda concluded, the Majority Leader can deny the courtesy of allowing a “procedural filibuster.” The minority would be then compelled to conduct a traditional filibuster and to continuously address the Senate as long as the majority maintains a quorum. If the minority fails to hold the Senate floor then the majority will simply vote and pass the bill. If the majority fails to maintain a quorum, the Senate adjourns until it reconvenes in January.

The importance of the majority party demonstrating its determination and using all its legal powers is paramount to the survival of the party. If the leadership of the party shows a lack of discipline or resolve in attempting to make into law a proposal that they have campaigned relentlessly on for forty years, there will be a breach of faith between the leadership and the party faithful who have given decades of support. If the party faithful come to see the elected party leaders as ineffectual, they may conclude that the leaders are either inept or corrupt. Either of these conclusions will lead to a lack of voter support and subsequent electoral loss. Not only will the he party faithful be disillusioned but the unaffiliated voters will come to see the majority party as incompetent.

Convincing unaffiliated voters of the soundness of one set of policy options over another is the key to governing. These independent voters are swayed by both the truthfulness and soundness of an argument as well as the perceived leadership ability of the elected leaders. During a marathon filibuster conducted through out the late December holidays the independent voters would be forced to take stock of both parties’ resolve and conduct.

Having the attention of these voters is a double edged sword. The minority party’s arguments, both intellectual and emotional, would get a full airing both on the Senate’s floor and in all the news media outlets. It is in these outlets that the real debate over the health care reform bill would be carried out. There is a danger that the minority will be more persuasive but it is a risk that must be taken if health care reform is to be realized. Without a full throttled attempt at passage this year the majority risks far more than not passing a bill, it risks self implosion.

Kevin Marley is the long time brewmaster at the Denver  ChopHouse and Brewery. He is a husband and a dad and has voted more times than he can remember.