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Mon, 20 Dec 2010 21:32:25

It's a brand new year, and soon we'll have a brand new Senate -- the 112th, to be exact. It's going to contain a lot fewer Democrats and some first-time world class wingnuts, like the global warming denier from Wisconsin and the Aqua Velva Buddha from Tennessee, but with any luck, the 112th may make history on its first day by doing away with the filibuster as we know it.

For the last two years, the Republican minority in the Senate has successfully stopped any and all legislation initiated by the Democrats by denying the body the sixty votes necessary to end a filibuster. It's nothing short of minority rule, and the GOP naysayers have done a fabulous job of using that tool to stop everything in its tracks, with the exception of a few pieces of legislation that were overwhelmingly popular, like their recent ending of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Never in the history of our government, and as far as I can tell, in the history of any modern government, has the minority closed ranks and voted "no" on every piece of legislation put forward by the majority party.

Newt Gingrich shut down the government once and has threatened to help do it again, but who needs crazy Newt when the sixty-vote filibuster rule accomplishes the same goal.

It used to take sixty-seven votes to end a filibuster and force an up-and-down vote, until Robert Byrd changed that to sixty in 1975. At the time, Byrd said fifty-one Senators could change it again under the right conditions. Those conditions will apply January 5th, when the Senate reconvenes under the gavel of Vice President Joe Biden. Biden has let it be known that he's up for changing the rules so that a simple majority of fifty-one votes will end debate.

Tom Harkin, the veteran liberal, will be leading the charge, and if the Blue Dogs don't gum up the works, we could actually get the majority-rule government that our Founding Fathers and Mothers had in mind.

It won't necessarily change any of our long-standing problems -- chronic unemployment, outrageous income inequality, doomed imperial adventures and a crumbling infrastructure -- but it will prevent Mitch McConnell's claque of reactionary drones from holding the Senate hostage.

In times like these, every little bit counts.

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