The best overview of our current Senate that I have ever read…

Moe Holland, over at Whatever Works, responded to one of my posts yesterday and led me to George Packer’s amazing article, The Empty Chamber, in The New Yorker. If you are used to watching the Senate in session on C-Span2 and wonder why so much of the televised time shows NOTHING HAPPENING while the rollcall is made…slowly… and the broadcaster fills the time with lovely Classical Music, Packer’s article makes it all very clear.

The Senate, which operates under its own rule book as opposed to the US Constitution, has renounced Democratic order (requiring “supermajorities” on almost all its votes while the minority members stall any and all legislation.) And, although it is Republicans now, under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, who have publicly avowed to work against any and all of Obama’s legislative requirements, it is also clear that Democrats in the minority would be doing more-or-less the same thing.

Summing up the Senate’s failings through interviews with sitting members (most of whom are younger members – first term folks -who actually thought they were getting elected to change things), such as this:

The Senate is often referred to as “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” Jeff Merkley, a freshman Democrat from Oregon, said, “That is a phrase that I wince each time I hear it, because the amount of real deliberation, in terms of exchange of ideas, is so limited.” Merkley could remember witnessing only one moment of floor debate between a Republican and a Democrat. “The memory I took with me was: ‘Wow, that’s unusual—there’s a conversation occurring in which they’re making point and counterpoint and challenging each other.’ And yet nobody else was in the chamber.”

Reading Packer’s piece (12 pages…it’s a good read) will give you a real view about why our government is stuck in the rut we find ourselves in. Just the section on Chris Dodd and the Financial Reform Bill near the end of the article will leave you wondering how ANY legislation is accomplished… even with strong public opinion.

I recommend that you take some time today to read it, if you haven’t already.

About btchakir

Retired Theatre Producer, Graphic Designer, Usability Tester and General Troubleshooter with a keen interest in Politics and The Stage. Currently heard on WSHC, 89.7 FM (on line at and occasionally dabbling in Community Theatre.

Posted on August 5, 2010, in campaign, Congress, Economics, Finance, Health Care, history, Legal, Opinion, Politics, President Obama, Word from Bill and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks for the shout out Bill – and I’m glad you read the piece. It’s really an important one.

    I’ve been working on a post with extensive outtakes for our lazier friends (company amongst whom I usually count myself) which I hope to get up today.

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