Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Barney Frank and the 60 Vote Rule

Barney Frank apparently fancies himself an advocate of democratic principles. Recently, he called the guidelines in the Senate “anti-democratic” for requiring 60 votes for bill passage, and suggests that an initiative be taken by Democratic senators to abolish the rule. His opinion is that the revision to lower the requirement from 67 votes to 60 was a good start, (1) so one can only assume that he would like for that threshold to be a strict majority, or 51 votes. Frank feels that this will alleviate the influence of roustabouts in the “smaller states” and diminish their role in a filibuster against a party in majority.

Barney Frank is calling for the abolition of this 60 vote rule under the guise of moral outrage and an adherence to democracy. But it is nothing more than a ploy to garner more control in Congress, and it has absolutely nothing to do with our system being “anti-democratic.”

This is obvious when we examine, for example, the healthcare reform package that his party supports. Barney Frank would argue that it should only require a majority vote in the Senate to initiate sweeping and costly healthcare reform. That would be “democratic.”

But this question looms. If he indeed values the precepts of democracy, why does he ignore the majority of Americans that have been much more prevalently against this healthcare bill? (2) This Senate majority has been blindly charging forward with their agenda in blatant spite of public opinion. By what logic is that acceptable within the guidelines of democracy?

For that matter, according to the most recent polls, the majority of Americans are against abortion, (3) despite the Democratic Party’s largely “pro-choice” agenda. Shall we ban abortions across the board because 51 percent of Americans feel it is wrong? The majority of Americans also persist in opposing gay marriage, (4) in clear opposition to Barney Frank’s obvious position in that arena. Shall we take the right to decide on this matter from the states and apply a federal ban on gay marriage because well more than 51 percent of Americans are against the practice?

With these issues, would Barney Frank stand firm with the democratic principles he claims to maintain, and support such large-scale reform on the basis of the majority? I would wager that he would not.

The fact is that Barney Frank is not truly an advocate of democracy. He is an advocate of his party’s agenda, and an advocate of any measures necessary to advance that agenda. In this case, he is just feigning a devotion to democracy to lower voting requirements, which will then allow Democrats pass their unpopular legislation without having to hide their backroom deals that grease politicians for those few extra votes.

No one knows better than Barney Frank that Americans are paying attention to Washington’s corruption and shady deals, and that they don’t like it. His home state just shouted its disapproval in an election.

William Sullivan
Houston, TX


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