Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A "Radical" Suggestion?

Here, in the wake of the Super Committee's failure, is Dick Durbin's "radical" proposal for enabling the Senate to confront our budgetary challenges:
“'I think we ought to say, after February 1st of next year, any 12 senators, six of either party, who produce a plan that can reduce this deficit by at least as much as the supercommittee was charged to do, ought to be able to bring it to the floor for a vote,' said Durbin on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. . . .

“'It’s time to move to the committee of the whole. Let’s start moving beyond these special committees and let’s do something pretty basic and maybe radical,' said Durbin."

This looks to me like a pretty blatant attack on Harry Reid's stewardship of the Senate.  I'll leave it to people with a better grasp of Senate procedure to decide whether the limits Durbin proposes to put on the Majority Leader's control of the calendar are a good idea.  I'm still trying to get my mind around the fact that the guy making this argument is a member of the Democratic Senate leadership.

By all accounts, we're headed into a pivotal election in which control of the Senate hangs in the balance.  Yet at this late date, most of us don't have the slightest idea what our Democratic Senators' budgetary priorities really are.  All we really know is that, as a group, Democrats prefer a bipartisan budget deal that raises taxes and doesn't cut entitlements while Republicans prefer a deal that cuts entitlements but doesn't raise taxes.  That tells you next to nothing about the governing priorities that would enable Democrats to calibrate trade-offs between social costs and benefits.  Those can only be inferred from their recorded votes over a series budgetary proposals that are usually made in the normal course of democratic governance.  But those Senate votes haven't happened over the last two years.

Now we seem to have gotten to the point that someone of Durbin's stature and influence thinks he has to propose a "radical" procedural innovation to oblige Senators to put their budgetary priorities on the record.  Isn't that a problem that Durbin should take up, and be able to solve, with Harry Reid, and if not with Reid then with the White House?  I can only presume that Durbin's tried that and failed.

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