Low Standards

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Photo by flickr user dionhinchcliffe used under a Creative Commons license.Photo by flickr user dionhinchcliffe used under a Creative Commons license.Kevin is sarcastically celebrating the Senate’s passage of unemployment insurance extension (which was packaged with the homebuyer tax credit that pretty much every expert thinks is a bad idea):

And Democrats only had to break three separate filibusters in the Senate to get this passed! The first filibuster was broken by a vote of 87-13, the second by a vote of 85-2, and the third by a vote of 97-1. The fourth and final vote, the one to actually pass the bill, was 98-0. Elapsed time: five weeks for a bill that everyone ended up voting for.

Why? Because even though Republicans were allowed to tack on a tax cut to the bill as the price of getting it passed, they decided to filibuster anyway unless they were also allowed to include an anti-ACORN amendment. Seriously. A bit of ACORN blustering to satisfy the Palin-Beck crowd is the reason they held up a bill designed to help people who are out of work in the deepest recession since World War II. Details here and here. That’s called taking governing seriously, my friends.

Even Kevin’s (admittedly meager) expectations for Congressional behavior are probably unrealistic. Of course movement conservatives (i.e., the vast majority of the congressional GOP) don’t take governance seriously—their central belief is that government can’t actually do anything right. Why worry about governance if it won’t make a difference anyway? Better to just focus on crass politics and try to get back in power so you can keep Democrats from wasting money on things that you don’t think will work. One of the big reasons American government doesn’t work very well is that most of one party has an ideological commitment to the idea that government doesn’t work very well.

That said, if we’re going to set the bar low, let’s set it really low. While Democrats can’t seem to pass health care reform or financial reform or climate change legislation, they can at least stop Republicans from implementing conservatives’ very worst ideas. We may not have any meaningful progressive reform, but at least we haven’t made the health insurance industry more like the credit card industry, like the GOP wants. Just yesterday, the Senate killed two particularly bad ideas: Lindsey Graham’s proposal to prevent 9/11 suspects from ever being tried in federal courts and David Vitter’s plan to waste money and ruin the census by adding a question about respondents’ immigration status 18 months after the survey was finalized. It could always be worse.

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