The fiscal cliff
The recent employment report from the Labor Department reinforced the importance of Congress and the White House managing well the looming collection of budget challenges, known as the “fiscal cliff.” President Obama indicated that the matter could be resolved rather quickly. He is right in theory. The trick will be setting the priorities in a sound order.
Today, there are 4 million fewer jobs than when the recession began in late 2007. Two-fifths of the unemployed have been seeking work for 27 weeks or longer. The previous high for this figure during the past 60 years was 26 percent in June 1983.
All of this points, again, to the type of recession the country suffered, one featuring the collapse of a financial bubble. These downturns almost always involve a long, slow recovery, as people repair their finances and seek to restore their assets.
For Congress and the White House, the first priority must be to do no harm to the fragile recovery. The Congressional Budget Office has warned that a failure to ease the approaching tax increases and spending reductions would likely send the economy into another recession.
The country doesn’t face something as dramatic as a steep cliff at the end of the month. The impact would be gradual, allowing room for negotiation into the new year. Yet the psychology is crucial, Washington taking command, more or less.
Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal
Senate filibuster reform
Nothing exposes partisan hypocrisy quite like the filibuster, that irksome parliamentary rule that allows a minority of U.S. senators to block legislation, judicial appointments and other business by requiring a 60-vote majority to proceed to a vote. Almost invariably, the party in power considers the filibuster to be an enemy of progress that must be squashed, while the minority fights to preserve it at all cost. That the same players often find themselves arguing from opposite sides depending on whether they control the Senate or are in the minority hardly seems to trouble most lawmakers.
So comes now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., with a campaign to alter the filibuster rule using the so-called nuclear option, which if invoked on the opening day of the new legislative session would allow senators to change the rules by majority vote. Republicans are appalled that he would consider such a ploy, even though they floated the same proposal when they held the majority in 2005. Back then, reform was blocked when 14 senators led negotiations that kept the filibuster largely intact, and top Senate Republicans are reportedly reaching out to their Democratic counterparts in an effort to repeat that “success.” We hope they fail.
For the record, we were rooting for the Republicans to go nuclear in 2005, and we feel the same way with Democrats in control. This is not a venerable rule created by the Founding Fathers to protect against the tyranny of the majority, but a procedural nicety that has been altered many times throughout history. In its current incarnation, it goes much too far and has produced gridlock in Congress.
Even many Democrats realize that someday they’ll be in the minority, and fret that a future Republican-dominated chamber will use Reid’s precedent to put even stricter limits on filibusters. But that’s no reason not to approve Reid’s proposal. If some future Senate majority wants to go thermonuclear, that’s a debate for another day.
Los Angeles Times