Political Animal


March 05, 2013 11:17 AM Asymmetrical Power Dynamics

By Ed Kilgore

Brother Benen and Greg Sargent are all over a bizarre series of statements by John Boehner yesterday arguing that Senate Democrats don’t have a “plan” for replacing the sequester because they haven’t enacted one. And why haven’t they enacted one? Because Republicans have filibustered every effort to do so!

Yes, this is an example of Boehner’s mendacity, and to the extent that many MSM observers never call him on this sort of thing, of the effects of the false equivalency syndrome whereby whatever “he said” is as valid as whatever “she said,” underlying facts be damned.

But speaking of underlying facts: it’s important in looking forward to keep in mind that control of the House is a more powerful political asset than control of the Senate because it carries with it a vastly greater ability to pass legislation in the “controlled” chamber. Unless and until filibuster reform occurs, a party with a majority in the House and 41 senators is in a largely unassailable defensive position so long as it can maintain unity and deal with the consequences of public opinion.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • howard on March 05, 2013 11:22 AM:

    and why more democratic senators don't fight for an end to the filibuster is beyond me. talk about an unforced error!

  • Josef K on March 05, 2013 11:49 AM:

    From howard and 2013 11:22 AM:

    and why more democratic senators don't fight for an end to the filibuster is beyond me. talk about an unforced error!

    You can't think of Senator as anything other than political actors, and two things a political actor is deathly afraid of is (a) loosing re-election, and (b) rocking an existing power structure. There are of course exceptions to this, but by and large the Senate is functioning perfectly smoothly for its elected members, some of whom may have actually convinced themselves that the current stalemate is both tenable and beneficial for the country as it is for themselves.

    Taking a position on any subject, especially one that invites controversy (and everything seems to do so these days), never mind actually shepherding legislation through the byzantine sausage-making process we call governance is definitely a boat-rocking action. Far easier to leave the status quo in place and blame the other side for failure to act. That way you keep your big-buck contributors relatively happy and leave the voters with little choice between two unhappy choices.

    Sounds cynical, I know, but that's the most plausible explanation, imo.

  • Mark_NC on March 05, 2013 12:51 PM:

    The public opinion thing is irrelevant. The press almost never mentions the blatant obstruction - so it basically doesn't exist.

  • Pat on March 05, 2013 1:09 PM:

    Yes, they can stop legislation. But they cannot govern. Being unable to govern means that they cannot reward their followers with positive rewards: jobs in their districts, contracts, etc.

    It only works if the people who support them are already getting everything they need.

  • ChicagoRob on March 05, 2013 3:12 PM:

    Boehner is a small, depressing man with weak vision. You were wondering how sand got in the Vaseline? John Boehner.

  • Peter C on March 05, 2013 3:21 PM:

    The biggest assymmetry is that Democrats are negotiating in good faith but Republicans aren't.

  • Hannah on March 05, 2013 5:11 PM:

    Josef: speaking of filibuster reform, one senator NOT afraid to the rock the boat and is up for (his first) re-election next year is my senator Jeff Merkley (OR). I haven't heard if any Repub is planning on challenging for the seat but I hope our hard-working-FOR-THE-PEOPLE senator will get strong support from the voters. And I hope he'll get good support nationally as well. I'll be phone banking, count on it.