We are likely only days away from the most important vote of this Congressional term and it will not be about a piece of legislation. With a divided Congress and a deeply conservative House Republican caucus the chances for major legislative accomplishments this year are remote. The most important vote will be about something more fundamental, do Senate Democrats even want to govern?
The Senate is a deeply broken institution. Idiotic rules and arcane traditions have been allowed to take precedent over Constitutional intent and common sense. What should be a majority rule legislative chamber has developed a de facto supermajority requirement for every thing. Even more absurd is the fact that a single senator can force the chamber to waste days on even the most mundane and uncontroversial actions.
While the chamber once partly functioned in spite of its rules the last few years of unprecedented obstructionism have made it clear it can no longer.
With the beginning of a new Congressional term Senate Democrats have the option to fix the chamber. With a simple majority vote they can adopt new rules to make the Senate less dysfunctional.
If Democrats do adopt significant new rules it will proof that that actually want to govern. It would show they are prepared to be held fully responsible for every thing the Senate does or doesn’t accomplish. It would mean they are prepared to accept losing power if their party loses elections because that is how democracies are designed to work.
If Democrats don’t fix the Senate it will mean they more highly value having ready made excuses for not fulfilling promises than the power to fulfill them. It means they would have rather have a greater individual sense of power in a broken system than risk being seeing as slightly less important elements in a functioning government.
Democrats may talk about not wanting sore bipartisanship or defending tradition but ultimately their choice is very simple. They have the power to make the Senate functional, so they can govern. The only question is do they want to and currently the answer seems to be no.