What a F*ing Scandal the Senate Is

Today, the United States Senate voted to eliminate the filibuster for most presidential nominees. That decision does not apply to legislation or Supreme Court nominees.

Republican John McCain responded to the vote, “Now there are no rules in the United States Senate.” The Reactionary Mind at work. (Incidentally, Patrick Devlin made a similar argument in The Enforcement of Morals, which led H.L.A. Hart to remind him that a change in the rules of an order need not constitute the elimination of that order or of order as such.)

But what does the vote actually mean? As Phil Klinkner explained to me, and as this old Washington Post piece confirms, before this vote, senators representing a mere 11% of the population could block all presidential appointments and all legislation.

From now on, senators representing a mere 17% of the population can block most presidential appointments; senators representing 11% can still block all legislation and all Supreme Court nominees.

The march of democracy.

What a fucking scandal that institution is.


  1. gigiistheone November 21, 2013 at 4:15 pm | #

    Reblogged this on Random Thinking and commented:
    I love Corey Robin! I appreciate the way he keeps us all informed! Cheers!

  2. Roquentin November 21, 2013 at 5:32 pm | #

    The bottom line is, McCain decries it because it weakens the position of himself and his supporters. Nothing more and nothing less. If you turn back the clock to 2005 the Democrats were fighting to preserve the filibuster instead because they were the minority party at the time. I know people on the left are busy trying to forget about that now, but it did happen and anyone with a long enough memory who was paying attention knows it too. In the end it would be in the best interest of actually passing legislation and making appointments if it were gone, especially given the current gridlock. Still, I think it is misleading to remove this from the context of the greater political battle currently going on.

    On a side note, the depressing implementation of the ACA has been on my mind a lot. I never had high hopes for it to start with, but I at least expected it to function on a basic level. What does it mean when the US government, given several years and plenty of resources, can’t even put together a decent website? I know the whole thing was a giveaway to the insurance industry, but you’d think they’d have at least kept up the pretense that the health exchanges were viable instead of making the whole project look like unadulterated graft. Maybe the writing on the wall of the ACA and the shutdown is something closer to a full blown legitimization crisis or a transition from a functioning national government into something purely ceremonial (much in the same ways of the twilight days of monarchy), where we just go through the motions of elections and passing laws which have little or no practical effects.

  3. Tom Corwin November 21, 2013 at 7:42 pm | #

    Hi Corey: Received your comment on the Senate’s rules from Jack Goodman. As one who been waiting for progress toward democracy for over 60 years I am hopeful that this is just the first step in eradicating the Senate’s bizarre tradition of letting the tail wag the dog. Madison would never approve what’s been done in his name for all these years.

    • Corey Robin November 22, 2013 at 1:03 pm | #

      Hi Tom! Great to hear from you. We’ll see what happens in the coming years. In the meantime, drop me a note at corey.robin@gmail.com and let me know how you’re doing. Corey

  4. Blinkenlights der Gutenberg November 22, 2013 at 12:49 am | #

    Who says there’s no such thing as tactical nuclear?

  5. Stephen Zielinski November 22, 2013 at 1:01 am | #

    From farce to an even more spectacular farce.

  6. Mark F. November 22, 2013 at 4:40 am | #

    The Senate was intended to be a check on pure democracy, as was the entire U.S. Constitution. Perhaps you’d prefer us to chuck the Constitution and just let the majority always have its way, but that is not how this country was set up.

  7. louisproyect November 22, 2013 at 9:08 am | #

    By an old friend…



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