Senators Fail America Again by Not Doing Their Jobs

The “Buffet Rule,” a proposal to ensure the wealthiest one percent of Americans pay federal taxes at a rate of at least thirty percent, failed to get the required votes needed to pass and thus died in the United States Senate.

You already heard about that, right?

Just one problem: the bill did get enough votes to pass. The Democratically-controlled Senate, given a piece of legislation that the Democratic president has featured in speeches for months, took it to vote and achieved a 51-45 victory. The Senate is able to pass legislation with a simple majority, meaning one half of the total Senate body (one hundred members) plus one. Fifty-one votes. Fifty-one votes and the law passes. The Buffet Rule received fifty-one votes. So, what the hell?

Sixty votes are required in the Senate to invoke cloture and end the debate on a bill after 30 hours. Without cloture, debate can continue indefinitely, with opposing senators filling up time in any way they wish (one prominent Senator just a few decades ago was known to read from the phone book). This process is known as the filibuster, and the filibuster has been the lurking boogie man of Congress since the Democrats took control in 2009.

Filibusters are not automatic. They require work and dedication by the party using them. A filibuster can backfire, causing tired, bored senators to switch over and vote in favor of cloture just so they can go home. If the opposition to a bill can’t fill the time on the floor 24 hours a day, every day, debate ends and the Senate votes. Fifty-one votes passes. The Buffet Rule had enough votes to pass.

So when you read or hear that the Buffet Rule didn’t pass, know that you’re being misled. The bill could have passed. The senators who are supposed to be aligned with President Obama, supposed to be aligned with the middle-class base of the Democratic Party, supposed to represent the interests of an American public that supports the Buffet Rule, well, those senators just didn’t feel like trying that hard. Your senators didn’t feel like doing their jobs.



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Jake Negovan drives Red Brown and Blue to be an outlet for progressive political opinion that leads to the betterment of life for the real, multicultural population of the U.S. and the rest of the world. His columns address the issues faced by our country as we continue growing toward a society of equality. More about Jake can be found on the web at or on Twitter@jakenegovan.

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