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December 09, 2009


Yglesias's phrase "all this piling-on of veto points upon veto points" makes it sound as if legislation can hardly be passed. He seems to imply that there aren't enough laws. I disagree.

Every year tens of thousands of pages of new legislation are enacted. In addition, thousands of pages of new regulations are adopted. These also have the force of law. Also, there are thousands and thousands of pages of court decisions which interpret these laws and regulations.

We're obligated to follow millions of pages of laws, regulations, and court decisions, although it's obviously impossible to read them all. Congress doesn't even read the laws they themselves pass.

Given the enormous and rapidly growing number of laws, I don't think there are too many impediments to increasing them. On the contrary, I think we ought to work at reducing and streamlining our legal structure.

As I pointed out some months back, the current filibuster fiasco is an unintended consequence of well-intentioned Senate filibuster "reform" more than three decades ago. Would-be reformers never seem to understand the iron law of unintended consequences. If you love the way the filibuster reform worked out, wait till you see what happens to health care.

Concerning Brendan's 4:25 PM update, Brendan appears to accept Yglesias's premise that the measure of whether a change in the filibuster procedure is advisable is whether the result will favor "progressive initiatives." That's the kind of result-oriented thinking that political scientists would generally deny. It's somehow refreshing to see it embraced so openly.

A nitpick: you should use the 51st Senator in the 110th Congress (VP voting the other way).

Substantive point: Don't concede on the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts; the only reason (AFAIK) that anyone would choose to use reconciliation is to avoid the filibuster, at least on the Senate side.

For a few other comments, see my post at:

I don't think Claire McCaskill was the 60th vote in the 110th Senate. Or if she was, Evan Bayh must have been 65 or something.

the undemocratic impact of the filibuster rule seems relatively trivial given that it takes place in the context of a grossly undemocratic representative body in which the citizens of Wyoming have 69 times as much representation as the citizens of California.

Scarpy - she was estimated as the 60th vote for a proposal to move policy in a conservative direction. I've edited the post to try to make this more clear.

Oh, never mind on the nitpick -- you mean 50th for the president. Oops.

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