Any real legislation in there?

Senate Democrats Waste Their Time and Ours

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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So here's my question for Senate Democrats and Majority Leader Harry Reid: How many desperately needed executive branch nominees could you have confirmed in the time you wasted demagoguing campaign finance with an irresponsible constitutional amendment that finally went down today?

I get it: it's campaign season, Congress isn't going to get anything substantive done on legislation and, apparently, focus groups are telling Democrats that attacking the Koch brothers is all that and a bag of chips. And if they had trotted out a go-nowhere bill for campaign grandstanding ... well, that's fine, both chambers and both parties do it. That's the game, even though the Senate does have real work it could be doing. Should be doing.

Running out the party agenda for showboating floor votes? That's business as usual, unappealing as it may be. Constitutional mischief, rushed to the floor with hardly any careful examination of potential consequences (intended or not) if the legislation actually passed? A constitutional amendment that modifies First Amendment speech as the courts have understood it for more than 40 years? A constitutional amendment that would have zero chance of passing under any circumstances? That's a fraud, just as it was a fraud when Republicans peddled anti-flag-burning constitutional amendments (and, in the heyday of Newtism, some half a dozen others). It smacks of the same post-policy dysfunction that I've knocked Republicans for. After all, when you're pushing a constitutional amendment you know will never go anywhere, there's no need to get the policy correct.

The Democrats' money-in-politics amendment died today, getting 54 votes ... six shy of the number needed for cloture and avoid a filibuster. But that hardly mattered, given that Democrats would have needed two-thirds of both houses of Congress to get anywhere. Maybe the Senate will get back to doing something worthwhile now.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net