Don’t Know Much About History: Chris Dodd Defends Filibuster with Fiction

It is intolerable to hear senators go on about the importance and traditions of their chamber when they seem to not understand or to willfully ignore both. The latest example is Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) defending the 60-vote threshold for cloture (put in place roughly 40 years ago) by essentially citing made-up history about Congress. From Huffington Post:
"I made a case last night to about ten freshman senators, you know, you want to turn this into a unicameral body? What's the point of having a Senate? If the vote margins are the same as in the House, you might as well close the doors," Dodd told reporters in the Capitol.

Dodd is either ignorant of our country's entire political history, or he is calling the founders idiots. We know the framers of the Constitution intended for both the House and the Senate to pass laws with the same simple majority vote and wrote that into the document. The first Senate even had a rule that would have prevented a filibuster, ensuring all laws needed only a simple majority to pass.

There is zero evidence that the founders set up the bicameral legislature with the purpose of having one require super-majorities to pass basic laws—in fact, there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Anyone who took high school US history would know the reason the founders created two chambers was a grand compromise--one house dividing representation by population, the House of Representatives, and one house providing equal representation for all states, regardless of population—that would be the Senate. At the time the Constitution was drafted, individual states were far more autonomous, and most citizens saw themselves as loyal to their state, and not the federal government. Small-population states feared delegations from large-population states could easily dominate the House—a bicameral legislature was a concession to small states. Dodd seems wildly unaware of this history.

For Dodd to claim that there would be no purpose to having the Senate if it wasn't a chamber requiring super majorities is especially absurd given that it wasn't until roughly one hundred years after the Senate's founding that they created the two-thirds vote requirement for cloture. By that logic, Dodd thinks the founders fools--creating a Senate with absolutely no purpose until some senator exploited a sloppy rules change decades later. It was that first filibuster that eventually led to the creation of super majority cloture votes several more decades after that. According to Dodd, it was only then that the Senate had any reason for being.

The great irony of Dodd claiming that elimination of the filibuster would make Congress a “unicameral body” is that the filibuster has already done that. The House is all but meaningless at this point because a bill now must be crafted expressly to garner 60 votes in the Senate. The Senate has stolen almost all power from the other chamber. Eliminating the filibuster would actually restore Congress to a true bicameral body by putting the two chambers on equal footing when it comes to crafting legislation.

If freshmen and sophomore Democratic senators find Dodd’s ridiculous argument compelling, my already low opinion of the Democratic party will take another hit. This nonsense from Dodd just reaffirms my joy at his impending retirement. I would like to suggest he uses his golden years to actually take some classes in basic US history.

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