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Archive for November 10th, 2009|Daily archive page

Senate: Old And Busted. House: New Hotness.

In Politics on November 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Screen Grab of House Floor Vote for Health Care Reform on 11/7/09 - Associated Press

Maybe it passed because Obama came by to give dashing septuagenarian and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) a good luck kiss on the forehead before the big game. Or because Anthony Weiner (D-NY) dropped his hardline Medicare-based public option crusade. Or maybe it passed because the House doesn’t suck.

It’s far from perfect, far from being a vote limited to health care, and far too long: compare its Tolstoy epic-like 1,990 pages to the original Social Security Act’s more novella-like 64. Alas, such is the nature of sausage-making.

By now we all know that on a busy, “nice little Saturday,” the House of Representatives passed a health care reform bill. In June, it also passed climate change legislation. Of course, neither of these bills is law yet, because of the languid pace of that familiar upper house, the Senate. (And because the president would need to subsequently sign them.) Nonetheless, it strikes me as ironic that the House, over four times the size of the Senate and with a few extra members on the fringes of normalcy, often proves to be a more nimble body.

I had always thought of the Senate as the more esteemed and wiser of our nifty bicameral legislature (courtesy of sly dog James Madison), and in many ways that’s true. But its members are, on average, older and more behind the times.

I had always thought of the Senate as the “real” Congress, where the big stuff gets done by household names, your McCains and Dodds and Rockefellers. Lately, it’s a chain of old men playing Red Rover who won’t let any laws come on over.

Through the fall the Senate has shown itself to be underwhelming. Its slothy pace and esoteric procedures are the legislative frustration equivalent of a reality show that drags out the elimination round announcement through three commercial cliffhangers. Read the rest of this entry »