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Senate Rules Kill Bailout, Foil Democracy

Senate Rules Kill Bailout, Foil Democracy
Rigged Game Stops Vote on Bill


Michael Collins
"Scoop" Independent News

(Wash. DC) The Unites States Senate voted down a "cloture" resolution last night killing the automaker bailout before it was even considered. Failure to gain approval for cloture opened the bill up to an anticipated filibuster. General Motors, the largest U.S. manufacturer, is in terrible shape financially and may not survive the month.

GM has 270,000 employees.

Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate Majority Leader, offered these stirring words: "If there is no agreement that can be reached ... we have danced this tune long enough." Dec. 12, 2008 Reid joined the majority of Republicans in opposing cloture.

Cloture resolutions require a 60% yes vote to pass. A simple majority won't do. The final Senate vote on cloture was 52 in favor, 35 opposed, with 12 not present. The motion failed to meet the 60% standard by eight votes. Even with those not present, the resolution would have likely failed.

A look at the Senate vote in terms of population shows that senators representing just 26% of citizens overcame senators whose states account for 64% total U.S. population. The nay saying Senators represent 78 million citizens, while those who wanted to vote on the bill account for 192 million. The remaining 30 million are factored in for the 12 no shows.

Tyranny of the Minority

Most of the anti bailout support came from less populated, less industrialized states with lower wage for workers and unions that are deliberately weakened by state law. Some of the states with strong Senate bailout opponents are the home of foreign automakers, e.g., Alabama, South Carolina.

The geographic breakdown looks like this:


Senate voting by geographic segment
(Assumptions)

You can develop your own assumptions on how to allocate populations to Senators. However you do it, it's clear that once again the will of the majority is frustrated by the minority.

Democracy Denied, Again

This Wednesday, the United States House of Representatives promptly passed the bailout bill by a vote of 237 to 170 (Clerk of the House, Dec. 10, 2008). There were 27 members not present and one who simply voted present.

Then the bill went to the august and arcane United States Senate where sometimes, in order to pass a bill, you have to pass a bill before the bill you want to pass is even considered. A cloture resolution, the bill to pass first, limits the amount of debate on a bill. Failing to get that passed at the start gives the minority yet another tool to stop a bill through endless discussion.

Had the cloture resolution passed, the bailout would have also based on the House vote, public support, and growing fears about a looming depression.

Senators produced this result despite serious threats of massive unemployment, lower wages, less consumption and lower personal savings. They produced this result despite giving away nearly $1.0 trillion dollars to banks, insurance companies, etc. without any real oversight or input. They killed the bill despite the fact that we're on the precipice of a depression.

That didn't matter to the Senators. They're wed to an arcane system that requires procedural votes before the Senate can consider truly substantive bills, i.e., the people's business. Why? Because the process means major changes only occur on the margins, for the benefit of the few, while people aren't paying much attention to legislative maneuvers that makes little sense unless you're in the club.

Senators and historians come up with all sorts of polite excuses for this tyranny of backwards, bought-and-sold Senators who betray both the nation's interests and those of their constituents on a regular basis. The bottom line is quite simply; nothing much gets done in this ultimate insiders club other than "earmarks" and other enrichment programs for the usual list of suspects.

While the President-elect and most Senate Democrats supported the bill, they were dealing with an institution whose members are, on a good day, "difficult." Senators don't seem to care about mundane issues like recessions and depressions. They' don't have to care. They're immune.

The outcome of the bailout may be settled in short order. Through provisions in the banking give away bill and other options available to the president, the funds may be loaned to automakers without House and Senate approval.

Public reaction to this failure to will be heard when the Senators go home for their holiday break. They'll do their best to stay away from open forums. They'll offer platitudes and meaningless drivel about fiscal responsibility after spending eight years bankrupting the nation. They'll do it with a straight face too. But they won't be able to say that this was a decision that reflects the will of the people

We can only wonder if, during the comfort of their holiday meal, they will bother to think of the hundreds of thousands of people whose jobs depend on the automakers, people who are just one pay check away from the streets.

END

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