This week my husband smelled a foul odor in the area around his vintage sports car which he keeps under raps in our garage. He removed the cover and lifted the hood to discover a big fat rat with a nest full of babies. There is no telling how much damage could have been done if he had not made that discovery and quickly dealt with the problem.
However, this was nothing like the rat we discovered in the California state legislature when it was revealed that Republican Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres provided the margin of victory needed by Democrats to pass a $5.2 billion dollar tax increase, ostensibly to repair the states road and bridges. This included a gasoline tax hike of 12 cents a gallon which hurts poor and middle class working commuters. It will give California the 2nd highest gas tax in the nation and likely the highest price at the pump due to California’s distance from the major refineries and a requirement by state air regulators that further increases the cost of gasoline for our state.
For his vote, Cannella, the rat, received a half billion payoff for projects in his district that have nothing to do with fixing potholes. They were designed to give him something to crow about to voters when he seeks higher office in a state heavily dominated by Democrats.
My guess is that Cannella, who is term-limited, couldn’t get elected dog catcher in his district after this because voters there know he was the rat. Rats are easy to spot in states where the legislature does not have the benefit of a filibuster.
Meanwhile in Washington, Democrats and many Republicans lamented the rule change in the United States Senate which did away with the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. It was a positive step for the republic! What a shame the rule change only applies to court appointments and not to legislation in general! It would go a long way toward cleaning out the rats in Washington. Why? Because they would be much easier to spot.
The filibuster is an arcane rule that allows members to essentially kill popular pieces of legislation by theoretically talking it to death. It inflates the egos of lawmakers in the upper chamber and allows them to wallow in their sense of self-importance by giving a single senator, or only a handful of senators, this unique power.
I used the word “theoretically” for a reason. In 1975, the Senate began experimenting with the “virtual filibuster,” where it is unnecessary for a Senator who wishes to block a bill to remain on the floor of the Senate or even talk at all. Therefore, there was no price to be paid for this obstruction. Since that time we have had a lot more of them. Surprise, surprise!
Also, there was a practice of allowing a single senator to put a secret “hold” on a bill. It was as if there was one of those virtual filibusters, but you had no idea who was doing it. Then, senators adopted what is known as the “two-track system,” where they could conduct other business while one of these virtual filibusters was going on. I guess that was to try to fool us into thinking they were actually doing something worthwhile to earn their salaries and all those perks, privileges and inflated pensions they enjoy.
Bottom line is that there is nothing sacred about the filibuster and the rules on it have changed so many times over the years, it’s difficult to keep up with them. Little wonder that the average voter has no idea what is really going on in the all-important upper chamber.
Democrats generally are more in favor of reforming the filibuster or doing away with it altogether, while Republicans have generally been in favor of keeping the status quo. The reason is that Republicans are timid. They have had very little time in the majority and simply have not mastered the art of leadership.
They claim to be for smaller government, yet during the short times they have had control, the government continues to grow, and grow, and grow!
The filibuster allows senators to obstruct a bill while keeping their constituents in the dark. They can tell you they are for something while actually obstructing the very thing that you want passed. There are many other ways to keep the public in the dark but the filibuster in the Senate is one of the most effective. That is why a sitting senator is almost never removed from office. It makes it harder to find those dirty rats.