by Kagro X
This morning's WaPo editorial, Undeliberative Democracy, reminds us of another important historical/foundational reason to oppose the nuclear option:
IF THE HALLMARK of the Senate is the ability of the minority to have its say or even to block action, the nature of the House of Representatives is the reverse: The majority can reduce the minority party to pesky irrelevance, choking off its opportunity to offer amendments or engage in debate.
The importance of unlimited debate in the Senate is only accentuated by the fact that strict majoritarian rule in the House often leaves room for no debate at all. As the recently-released report by Rep. Louise Slaughter makes clear, the temptation posed by the ability of the majority to change the rules of debate at their whim has proven too great even for the oh-so-morally-centered Republican reformers who were swept to power in 1994 on the strength of their promise to deliver genuine openness and debate.
That same cadre, many of whom have since graduated to the Senate, now seeks to remake the Senate in the same repressive image -- again, though, with promises that "this time, it'll be different."
Among the many good arguments for bicameralism and the genius of the structure of the legislative branch, there is the fact that having two houses permits us to implement more than one set of what business types (stereotypically, Republicans) call "best practices." That is, we're able to combine the best of both worlds: one house in which the people are represented by district, one house in which they're represented by states; one house in which large states hold more sway, one house in which small states stand on equal footing with the large, and; one house with majoritarian rule, one with enhanced protection minority rights.
Frist -- who had never voted before 1988 and never held elective office before his fellow Republicans vowed in 1994 to uphold the principles of open debate -- would undo that fundamental, 200+ year old difference between the two Houses of Congress. And once done, he would skip town to run for president, leaving a forever-crippled legislative branch as his legacy of a mere two terms in the Senate.
It seems plain enough to me, though there are certainly those who would disagree, that the framers intentionally designed the Senate to operate differently and to embrace different principles than the House. There is, of course, the provision of Art. I, sec. 5 which permits each chamber to make its own rules. Add to that the fact that the framers designed the House to reconstitute itself in its entirety every two years, while the Senate would retain 2/3 of its membership at all times. Why, then, the argument that the Senate should operate under the same procedural rules as the House should be regarded as a constitutional mandate, I have no idea.