During the years when Republicans controlled the Senate, I defended the filibuster as a necessary tool of the minority party to prevent the majority from abusing its position. I argued that American politics worked in a very different way from countries with parliamentary traditions where the chief executive is also the head of the majority party in the legislature, and that therefore we needed procedures to protect the minority party in the Senate.
Recently, I find my faith sorely tested. Some of it is stories like this
which highlight delay for the sake of delay across all issues. But the more immediate concern has been the abuse by a handful of Democratic Senators in the context of the health reform bill. The ability of senators to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars for a procedural vote is simply not right. It makes the entire system dysfunctional. Because then every Senator owes it to his or her state to become a hold out and hold up the process.
I'm not sure that I am in favor of eliminating various Senate procedures such as holds and filibusters. But it is clear that the system is breaking down. It will not matter who controls the chamber after 2010, or by how much, because no one has incentive to actually negotiate at all.
It is very depressing to be a man of principle and a pragmatist simultaneously.