The Senate has impressed us in the last few weeks. Before the Christmas break, the Senate came together numerous times-despite a few reluctant scheisters like McCain, Lyndsey Graham, and Tom Coburn, to name a few-to pass an enormous amount of important bills.
As Salon’s Alex Pareene summarizes the Senate’s impressive activity: “they ratified START, passed the food safety bill and the 9/11 first responders bill, confirmed a bunch of judges, repealed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, and extended unemployment benefits” (readDon’t kid yourself: The Senate’s still broken).
And who would have thought even one of those things could have been accomplished in America’s constipated congressional system?
Pareene says not so fast with celebrating the Senate’s late-year success. The “Senate is still not up to the task of solving any of America’s major problems”. The Senate should have taken care of these issues long before the November elections, Pareene argues. He quotes Dave Weigel: “twenty years ago, things like the food safety bill, which passed on a 75-23 vote, would not have been punted to the lame duck.”
Pareene says: “nothing that passed was particularly controversial (not even ‘don’t ask, don’t tell) so all of it could’ve been taken care of long before a last-ditch lame duck. Before the days when every routine bit of legislation required 60 votes to even be considered, this entire lame duck docket could’ve been taken care of on some random week of the regular legislative session, with time enough left to confirm a few dozen uncontroversial presidential nominees.”
Although the Senate’s last few weeks appeared to be successful, Pareene reminds us: “The Senate had to pass the food safety bill multiple times, because of procedural screw-ups. The 9/11 bill shrunk…. The Senate just gave up on slightly difficult but necessary things, like the DREAM Act and the appropriations bill. The failure of the omnibus spending bill…means that the government can’t actually act on the wonderfully progressive things the Senate passed earlier this year, like healthcare reform and financial regulation…. And the Democrats failed to even come close to passing a budget while they still controlled both houses.”
Pareene continues with his damnation of the Senate’s efficacy: “we’ve got no climate bill, no immigration reform, no budget, and no hope of improving, rather than dismantling, the healthcare reform law.”
Sharp words, Mr. Pareene. But he’s right. Before we get too joyful about the Senate, about Washington, let us be honest: “The Senate’s still broken.”