An Open Letter To Vice President Biden
Mr. Vice President, now is the time for you to
exercise one of your important duties.
Dear Mr. Vice President,
for Justice at the New York University School of Law, a nonpartisan law and policy
institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice, has indicated that “Although often overlooked, one of the duties of the vice president
is to act as president of the Senate, including issuing advisory opinions about
internal Senate procedure.”1 Brennan Center
I am writing to you to remind that you are in a very unique position at a critical point in our nation’s history to issue an historic Advisory Opinion on internal Senate procedures that could be a highlight of your legacy and a manifesto to challenge and guide the future operations of the United States Senate.
First of all, as President of the U.S. Senate you are in the foremost position to issue such a manifesto. Secondly, your 36 year career as an active U.S. Senator, combined with nearly 8 years as Vice President and Senate President, has given you a perspective unmatched by any individual. Thirdly, your apparent retirement from elected office, gives you a credibility and neutrality which is necessary to speak on a controversial issue that demands bipartisanship, yet defies resolution because of its powerful political scope that benefits both major political parties. Finally, as the Obama Administration draws to a close and a new Presidency has yet to be decided, and a new Congressional session looms, the timing could not be better to set the stage for a new era Senatorial reform.
As you and all
insiders know well, certain Senate
procedures and rules are a major contributor to governmental gridlock and
dysfunction. The excessive increase in the so-called “silent filibuster”; the
arcane procedure known as a Senatorial “hold”; and the ability of Senate
Leadership and Committee Chairs to ignore Constitutionally-mandated functions (advise
and consent) because there are no specified procedural time limits (e.g.
Supreme Court appointment), are a few examples of rules and procedures that demand
changes. Washington, DC
Some will argue that such changes require a two-thirds vote of the Senate, but that argument has been dispelled by both Republicans and Democrats.
Again, citing the
, “The Constitution nowhere requires a two-thirds vote for changing
Senate rules and does not even mention filibusters. The Constitution states
that ‘each house may determine the rules of its proceedings,’ and the document
requires a two-thirds vote only for impeachments, expelling a member, ratifying
treaties, overriding presidential vetoes, and proposing constitutional
amendments. There is simply no reason to believe that the framers of the
Constitution thought a two-thirds vote could be required for the Senate (or the
House) to change its rules. The straightforward inference is that, as a
constitutional matter, only a simple majority is required.”2 Brennan
Without going into the details of these extreme extra-parliamentary practices that both parties have self-imposed on House & Senate procedures, it is these very practices that have led, in large part, to the current dysfunctional government and the increasing public unrest.
It is my opinion that if you dig deep into the search for solutions you can find it in the simple concept of "majority rule." For the last several decades inside political manipulation by both parties has undermined this basic concept, and as a result given rise to a devilish concept of "minority rule." This nightmarish concept defies compromise and feeds on government stagnation, obstruction and inaction on increasingly perplexing problems and issues that demand action -- that's why the public is mad – that’s why they have lost their trust and respect for government.
Not only do these practices grind decision making to a standstill, but they allow for increased leverage for lobbyists and moneyed influences. These practices are the "demons of democracy" and have led to the public’s perception that Congress is basically useless as a governing body – e.g. approval ratings less than 10%.
As Thomas Jefferson pointed out way back in 1809, "Where the law of the majority ceases to be acknowledged, there government ends, the law of the strongest takes its place, and life and property are his who can take them." He also said, "All... being equally free, no one has a right to say what shall be law for the others. Our way is to put these questions to the vote, and to consider that as law for which the majority votes."3
The “demons of democracy” have so distorted the democratic process envisioned by the Founders and the Constitution, as to make it unrecognizable. No elected President (Democrat, Republican or Independent) can achieve their stated or envisioned goals for the country because of these constraints. The result is that the majority public and winning candidate are denied any opportunity to see their vision actually implemented.
We must have trust in the majority rule system as it may not always deliver the results that we, as an individual, envision; however, if decisions are really bad, the majority corrects itself by changing direction. The founders and our Constitution were based on the concept of majority rule and we have now drifted away from that cornerstone.
Mr. Vice President, your leadership on this vital issue at this critical time can help turn the tide of what is becoming a dangerous decline in the public’s belief in our democratic form of government and our political leaders from both major parties.
I refer you to my blog – J.P. McJefferson: Exposing the Underpinnings of a Broken Government – for postings, commentary, tools, resources and court cases relating to broken government.
Please use your position, experience and authority to address these critical issues in an Advisory Opinion on internal Senate procedures.