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An Epiphany About Practical US Politics

已有 1770 次阅读 2021-5-22 20:48 |个人分类:生活点滴|系统分类:海外观察

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An Epiphany About Practical US Politics

As many readers of my blogs on ScienceNet know, I have lived in the US since 1950, had my undergraduate and graduate education from MIT and Harvard, followed by 60 years of research in automation and control systems, and I like to ask questions (as my wife jokingly said that on my tombstone, she will ask the phrase “He likes to know” to be inscribed). Without having my K-12 education in the US, I did not have any “civics” class formerly to learn how the US government works. Nor was I a social or political scientist who specializes in governance. Thus, what I do know about the US House and Senate were gathered via osmosis from newspapers, just everyday living, and watching TV talk shows particularly during the past 16 months due the pandemic lockdown. This much are common knowledge as an US citizen:

·       A bill must pass both the House and Senate to become US  law

·       The US Senate has the tradition of filibuster, i.e., a minority can “debate” forever to prevent a vote on an issue- to obviate “the tyranny of the majority” (we all know some of the well known imperfections of majority rule. Remember the Arrow’s impossibility theorem about democracy)

·       To shut off “filibuster, i.e. forever nonstop debate”, requires a super majority of 60 votes in the Senate. Currently the US senate is split 50-50.

·        To abolish “filibuster” all together require a 2/3 majority of 67 votes which is almost impossible in the foreseeable future. Beside, many people cherish the tradition of filibuster as a tool to correct the unfairness of the majority rule.

But then one has the natural question: how do we get anything done? How did President Biden got his American Rescue Bill of nearly 2 Trillion dollars passed earlier this year? It turns out there is this “work around” tradition of RECONCILIATION where the House and the Senate got together to work out some compromise and where only a simply majority is required to pass a bill into law.

·       Hence one question that was never clearly explained: --Why can “reconciliation” be used to simply avoid “filibuster” on all issues? Last night while watching a political talk show the Reason suddenly dawned on me: Amount of money can be negotiated; but principle, e.g., who can vote, cannot be compromised. Thus ,an African American cannot be just entitled to 3/5 of a vote while a white American shall have one vote per person. We can compromise on how much to give to the Department of Defense but not on the principle whether or not arm forces are needed by the US.

·       Thus, the tradition of “filibuster” is retained to give a minority some power of resistance. Reconciliation cannot be used to pass any bill.

·       Thus, if a minority is united in the Senate, political grid lock can occur on many issues of principle and the country degenerate into inaction.

 




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