Way to nuke ’em, Harry.The New York Times:
It was time — actually, long past time — for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to invoke the “nuclear option” and ask his colleagues to change the Senate’s rules. This isn’t about partisan politics. It’s about making what has been called “the world’s greatest deliberative body” function the way the Framers of the Constitution intended.
Recently, it has barely functioned, as Republicans abused the old rules to prevent the chamber from performing its enumerated duties. There was a time when the minority party in the Senate would have been embarrassed to use such tactics in pursuit of ends that are purely political, but we seem to live in an era without shame.
In a 52-to-48 vote that substantially altered the balance of power in Washington, the Senate changed its most infuriating rule and effectively ended the filibuster on executive and judicial appointments. From now on, if any senator tries to filibuster a presidential nominee, that filibuster can be stopped with a simple majority, not the 60-vote requirement of the past. That means a return to the democratic process of giving nominees an up-or-down vote, allowing them to be either confirmed or rejected by a simple majority. The only exceptions are nominations to the Supreme Court, for which a filibuster would still be allowed. But now that the Senate has begun to tear down undemocratic procedures, the precedent set on Thursday will increase the pressure to end those filibusters, too.[...]Head below the fold for much more on this and other news.
Democrats made the filibuster change with a simple-majority vote, which Republicans insisted was a violation of the rules. There is ample precedent for this kind of change, though it should be used judiciously. Today’s vote was an appropriate use of that power, and it was necessary to turn the Senate back into a functioning legislative body.
That Senate Republicans immediately compared the change in Senate rules to Obamacare — a non sequitur if ever there was one — was only symptomatic of the political polarization that required such a change in the first place. Reining in the filibuster was necessary because its over-use had gotten ridiculous — the three latest victims, the Obama administration picks for the D.C. Court of Appeals, were simply the last straw for a problem that has been years in the making.Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal Constitution looks at how filibuster reform "restores the wisdom of the Founders":
Make no mistake, this was no big victory for Democrats. As Mr. Reid acknowledged when he introduced the rule change on the Senate floor, this will give his own party less clout in judicial appointments if and when the GOP gains a Senate majority. What's good for the goose is going to be good for the next generation of ganders, too. But as the majority leader also pointed out, this was necessary for the sake of the country.
The filibuster is an extra-constitutional contrivance adopted long after Hamilton, Madison and their colleagues left the scene. Once used rarely, in recent years it has become a standard obstacle to almost any action of significance. The change being voted on today in the Senate abolishes the filibuster only when considering presidential nominations to Cabinet jobs and other executive branch positions, and to judicial nominations other than to the Supreme Court.Switching topics, The Los Angeles Times pens an editorial against another Guantanamo:
It ought to be abolished altogether. Wipe it off the books.
In recent months, President Obama has rededicated himself to his longtime goal of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and there are signs that Congress may assist him in making good on that promise. It will depend on whether the final 2014 National Defense Authorization Act follows language in the Senate version relaxing current restraints on transfers of the remaining detainees.Paul Krugman urges that Social Security be expanded, not cut:
But even if additional prisoners are moved out of Guantanamo, it's vital that the U.S. not solve its immediate problem by replicating the prison elsewhere. That concern is raised by reports that the Obama administration is negotiating with Yemen to construct a facility that would house as many as 30 of the 55 Yemenis the Pentagon has cleared for transfer [...]
We have no strong objection if the U.S. decides to assist Yemen as it launches such a project to encourage repatriated detainees not to relapse or rejoin terrorist groups. But the U.S. shouldn't build, much less operate, a Guantanamo-like prison in Yemen or collude in indefinite detention.
[A] funny thing has happened in the past year or so. Suddenly, we’re hearing open discussion of the idea that Social Security should be expanded, not cut. Talk of Social Security expansion has even reached the Senate, with Tom Harkin introducing legislation that would increase benefits. A few days ago Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a stirring floor speech making the case for expanded benefits. [...]Speaking of living standards, Swiss voters are going to vote on a proposal to cap executive pay at 12 times what the lowest-paid worker at a company makes. John D. Sutter at CNN explains:
[W]e’re looking at a looming retirement crisis, with tens of millions of Americans facing a sharp decline in living standards at the end of their working lives. For many, the only thing protecting them from abject penury will be Social Security. Aren’t you glad we didn’t privatize the program?
So there’s a strong case for expanding, not contracting, Social Security. Yes, this would cost money, and it would require additional taxes — a suggestion that will horrify the fiscal scolds, who have been insisting that if we raise taxes at all, the proceeds must go to deficit reduction, not to making our lives better. But the fiscal scolds have been wrong about everything, and it’s time to start thinking outside their box.
The referendum, which is called the "1:12 initiative" and began after supporters gathered 100,000 signatures to put it on the ballot, is the kind of elegant solution to income inequality that we in the United States should consider more seriously.
Not because the initiative, as it will be voted on, would work in the United States. It likely wouldn't. But because the idea of tethering top executive pay to SOME sort of concrete metric might stop American execs from floating further into the stratosphere. [...]
[T]he pay ratio does matter, for a couple of common-sense reasons. One is that democracy starts to unravel if a few people become wildly, ethereally successful, while the rest of a country struggles. That was the best argument I heard on a recent phone call with Cedric Wermuth, a Swiss politician who has been one of the earliest proponents of the 1:12 initiative. Wermuth is not arguing for the enforced pay ratio on practical or economic grounds. His is a moral position -- that it is fundamentally unfair for the pay gap to be so wide, and that it allows a few uber-rich people to wield undo influence over society, economics and politics.