Just how broken is the U.S. Senate?

January 3, 2011

Important question.

George Packer asked in back in August, in an article he wrote for The New Yorker, “The Empty Chamber.”

Illustration of U.S. Senators for New Yorker, August 2010

Illustration from The New Yorker. Caption from the magazine: “Sit and watch us for seven days,” one senator says of the deadlocked chamber. “You know what you’ll see happening? Nothing.” (Is there any Republican portrayed in this illustration?)

It’s troubling to me that back in August Packer could note a list of subjects critical to our nation that the Senate had been blocked from considering, and even after a “record setting” lame-duck session, all but one of those issues remain untouched.

Packer wrote:

On July 21st, President Obama signed the completed bill. The two lasting achievements of this Senate, financial regulation and health care, required a year and a half of legislative warfare that nearly destroyed the body. They depended on a set of circumstances—a large majority of Democrats, a charismatic President with an electoral mandate, and a national crisis—that will not last long or be repeated anytime soon. Two days after financial reform became law, Harry Reid announced that the Senate would not take up comprehensive energy-reform legislation for the rest of the year. And so climate change joined immigration, job creation, food safety, pilot training, veterans’ care, campaign finance, transportation security, labor law, mine safety, wildfire management, and scores of executive and judicial appointments on the list of matters that the world’s greatest deliberative body is incapable of addressing. Already, you can feel the Senate slipping back into stagnant waters.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/09/100809fa_fact_packer#ixzz19wpuFk4q

Only food safety got done, though a few judicial appointments squeaked through (less than two dozen).

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