Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Senate Rules

The Federal government of the United States has three branches or entities that share power. Each entity has a purpose for exercising power and a purpose for limiting the power of the other entities. The President of the United States chooses the Judges who rule on the constitutionality of the laws passed by Congress and signed by the President. The American system may not be perfect, but it has over the years functioned pretty much the way it was designed to function. Each elected representative possesses power that is checked and balanced by other elected representatives as well as by the judicial branch of government.

The President of the United States may be the only elected member of the Executive Branch of government, but in some ways, each Senator, one out of a hundred, is almost as powerful as the President under the right circumstances.

Each Member of the United States Senate has four loyalties. First, each Senator is loyal to a political party. Second, each Senator is loyal to the Senate as a whole. Third, each is loyal to his or her campaign donors (not constituents). However, the fourth loyalty is the most telling because each Senator is sold-out loyal to his or her own ambition to attain, maintain, and exercise power.

With the current filibuster rules in the Senate [60 votes for cloture], the number 55 is a magic number for each Senator to maintain maximum power. Senators are constantly trading votes in a way to achieve some of their goals without having to abandon their campaign promises. For the most part, each Senator votes with his or her political party because Senate leaders in both parties offer favors for votes. However, in order for a Senator to be able to extract favors from other Senators and from the President, each one of them needs a certain amount of independence to oppose his or her own party.

The closer the majority party gets to 60 members in the Senate, the less favors need to be offered to each individual in the majority party. A few Senators in the majority party may not be as important to the majority party when there are 60 members in the majority since a few members in the minority party are also susceptible to receiving favors on each piece of legislation. In the other direction, the more the majority party gets closer to 50 members, the more all 50 members are looking for favors and the less power each individual Senator can wield.

By compromising on how the filibuster will be used to block Judicial nominees, Senator McCain and the other Senators who signed the agreement were able to make a deal that maintained the individual power of all 100 Senators and decreased the ability of President Bush to accomplish his goals without offering favors. It was quite an impressive Machiavellian feat for the Senator from Arizona.


pete porter said...

Only in America, I love this country.
Be Blessed,

David M. Smith said...

Hi Pete,

When I was writing this piece I had a paragraph about how our system is unlike any other. However, I ended up taking it out. I do agree with you, though!