Paging Evan Bayh

It looks like a handful of Democratic senators finally want to take a shot at reforming the world’s unwieldiest deliberative body. Good luck, guys! Of course, it’s going to be profoundly difficult, and I think the response from Robert Byrd–quoted in the article–is a perfect illustration of why:

“Extended deliberation and debate — when employed judiciously — protect every senator, and the interest of their constituency, and are essential to the protection of the liberties of a free people,” Byrd, who was first elected in 1958, wrote in a letter to colleagues last month.

The key phrase here is protect every senator. Lindsay Graham (who you’ll recall Dara called out yesterday) isn’t the only guy who likes using the Senate’s intransigence as an excuse to avoid doing anything that might offend a potential voter. For a US Senator, the very best voting record is no voting record, especially if you plan on running for president one day.

The way the institutional incentives are stacked, it might take some drastic measures to corral enough legislators into repairing the system. Still, it might not be impossible. Recall that even Harry Reid was against reform before Richard Shelby took obstructionism to soaring new heights. His chutzpah has inspired me; so much so that I think some brave pro-reform Senator should follow his lead.

Here’s what I propose: Democratic Senator X threatens to place a blanket hold on everything–and I mean everything–filibuster anything that does happen to make it to the floor, and generally abuse the hell out of every single parliamentary stalling tactic he can get his hands on until enough of his colleagues get fed up and agree to negotiate reform.

The ideal candidate for this sort of thing would be a high-profile Senator with some centrist cred who isn’t terribly worried about running for reelection. With that in mind, I nominate Evan Bayh, who has recently become an unexpected voice of sanity. This is a golden opportunity for him to add something to his legacy besides forthright advocacy for war with everyone and anyone.

So what do you say, Senator? If you go through with something like this, I promise I’ll take back all many of the mean things I’ve ever said about you.

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Ned Resnikoff

Ned Resnikoff