It’s been a long time since we’ve had the opportunity to laugh at anything Dan Quayle said:
Former Vice President Dan Quayle appeared on Fox News this afternoon to chip in his two cents on the health care debate. Namely, he warned that using the reconciliation process would set a “very bad precedent” because a simple majority is just unconstitutional.
“They’re gonna go to budget reconciliation, which I believe would set a very bad precedent, because essentially — if they could do it, and I don’t know if they can do it, but if they could do it — what you have done, effectively, is to take away the filibuster in the United States Senate,” Quayle said. “So, therefore, you have 51 votes in the House and 51 votes in the Senate. That is not what our Founding Fathers had in mind. That is not the constitutional process.”
Of course, redefining “majority” in a political body of 100 to mean 60 rather than 51 for everything the Senate tries to do is not what the Framers had in mind, either. Not to mention the historical problems with a former member of a Republican administration supporting the filibuster and railing against the use of reconciliation to pass legislation:
But using reconciliation to pass health care reform would not set a precedent, “very bad” or otherwise. President George W. Bush used it regularly.The Constitution gives both houses of Congress the power to set their own rules. Although that document doesn’t mention the filibuster, the practice seems to have been around since Congress began.
Dr. Steven Taylor also corrects Quayle on his facts:
I am not going to get into Quayle, health care reform, or even reconciliation. Rather, I want to highlight the “constitutional process” part because I think that a lot of people think that what Quayle is saying above is correct.Let me be clear: he is wrong.
The filibuster process and the specific numbers needed to evoke cloture (i.e., force the end of debate in the Senate) are wholly the result of the rules of the Senate. They are not the result of constitutional strictures and are not something that can be blamed on the intentions of the Founding Fathers (if, by that, one means what they wrote in the constitution).
Now, one can argue about whether the filibuster rule is a good one or not, but one cannot assert (and be correct) that it is a constitutional principle.
The only linkage to the constitution is to note that Article I, Section 5 allows each chamber to set its own rules.