Stories by Steve Bell

Steve Bell is former Staff Director of the Senate Budget Committee, a former managing director at Salomon Brothers, and now Senior Director on Economic Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Dems Flirt with Government Shutdown

September 28th, 2010 at 1:23 pm 4 Comments

The fight that starts today over a “Continuing Resolution for Appropriations for FY2011” stands either as an error by the Democratic Party leadership or the White House.  It could hurt Democratic chances to retain the House this November.

To summarize:  at the end of this week Fiscal Year 2010 ends and FY2011 starts.  But, pharmacy Congress has failed to pass even a single spending bill for FY2011.  Under the Constitution, health no monies can be spent in the absence of an appropriation.  So, Congress must act in order to keep the government open after midnight Thursday.

So, why is the CR (as it is known on the Hill) bollixed up?

The President decided to request $20 billion in new spending and asked the Democratic leadership in Congress to attach it to the pending CR. Republicans object to the additional monies, especially in light of a variety of pledges to cut spending back to FY2008 levels.

So, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has begun the well-worn cloture path to try to pass the CR, with the extra $20 billion included.

One wonders what arcane reasoning produced the extra $20 billion request.  The two biggest political issues in the land right now are government over-spending and jobs.  Why Democrats would want a fight on spending literally five weeks before Election Day leaves one perplexed.

What is especially strange about the entire matter is that Congress could simply pass a CR with no amendments at all (called a “clean” CR) and make it effective until late November, when the Lame Duck session could deal with the issues within the $20 billion request.

In short the Democrats have picked an unnecessary fight at an inopportune time with no upside.

The CR will pass, but it is likely to be clean—unless the Democratic Congress decides that a shutdown of the government is politically beneficial.  If that is the ultimate strategy, Congress might be wise to review the results of the 2005 government shutdown.

Fearful Dems Punt Budget to Post-Election Season

September 16th, 2010 at 2:30 pm 4 Comments

The secret that was never a secret  is out — no appropriations bills for FY 2011 will pass Congress and be sent to the President before the October 1 beginning of the new fiscal year.

Of course, nurse almost no one in Washington ever believed that all the bills would be done on time.  It has become normal for many if not most of the spending bills to be done in a series of continuing resolutions, sildenafil omnibus appropriations bill, and other maneuvers.

But, perhaps we have become inured to this “new normal.”  Perhaps we don’t know the ramifications of failing to do the basic work of the Congress.

The course for this year was set when the Democratic leadership in the House decided not to even try to craft a Budget Resolution for FY11.  House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer admitted as much when he said that the prudent course was to wait until the President’s commission on fiscal matters made its report the first week of December.  Because individual appropriations bills cannot come to the Senate floor without the spending allocations implied in a budget, anyone who tried to bring a spending bill to the Senate floor would be baffled by Senate rules.

So, here we are, about 6 weeks before the November mid-term elections.  Democrats are worried about losing the House and maybe even the Senate, although that seems very unlikely.  They don’t want to even be here in Washington, for the most part, let alone vote for spending bills that will add money to already astonishing deficit projections.  Republicans, on their own, cannot do anything about the situation, although they are insisting on a variety of spending ceilings in order to let the appropriations process go forward.

Finally, Congress in all likelihood will not complete action on the expiring Bush tax cuts until the lame duck.

Step back and imagine what the average informed, well-read American thinks about all this:  Congress really only has to do two things, when all is said and done—pass spending and revenue bills.  And, it cannot even do that because fear rules Congress right now.  No wonder Congress has sunk so low in the opinion of 75 per cent of voters surveyed.

Perhaps it is not the fear of “big” government that causes such disdain;  perhaps it isn’t even the fear of a stupid government.  But, Americans have a right to fear a government that cannot even put together a budget.

Should the GOP Fear the Lame Duck Session?

August 10th, 2010 at 4:06 pm 14 Comments

A privileged resolution attempting to prevent congressional Democrats from passing “controversial” legislation during the lame-duck session of Congress sounds good, purchase but may have bad unintended consequences and may give more credit to the congressional majority than warranted.

Rep. Tom Price, sale the Republican Study Committee Chairman, will get a vote on his resolution next week.  He fears that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats will take up some legislation that could not pass in the 112th Congress in the lame-duck.

But, what happens if the argument on the expiration of the Bush tax cuts carries over into the lame-duck session?  What if emergency legislation to pay for a disaster or unforeseen defense matters emerges?

On the other hand, what if the GOP wants to pass trade bills with other nations that Democrats might strongly oppose?  Would the Price resolution preclude consideration of agenda items even his own party wants?

On the less theoretical, but more important front, it seems highly unlikely that the Senate and its rules would allow almost anything to pass that the GOP strongly opposed.   In light of the Senate barrier, it seems that the Price resolution is a solution to a problem that well may not exist.

However, Rep. Price is right to be worried about the lame-duck.

Since Congress has been unable to pass any appropriations bills, or the Defense Authorization Bill, or deal with the expiring tax provisions from 8 months ago, and faces a bitter, unpredictable fight on the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, the upcoming lame-duck could be one of the most chaotic in recent memory.

Former Majority Leader Sen. Howard Baker once said that he absolutely disliked and feared lame-duck sessions, just because of their unpredictability.  He only very reluctantly participated in one when Reagan was president.  That lame-duck was difficult; one this November and December could be positively destructive.

Yet, what choice does Congress have?

A full scale debate on taxes is baked into the legislative cake.  Can such a debate conclude in legislation presented to the president before the October “adjournment” date?  It is hard to imagine such a debate concluding in the House and Senate, and going to conference, and subsequent passage of a conference report in the four weeks Congress will return for work after Labor Day.  Indeed, it seems almost unimaginable that any tax legislation can pass the Senate floor in the absence of the budget process’ reconciliation provisions.

Rep. Price’s concern is well-placed, but even if his resolution fails, he can count on the bulwark of Senate rules to blunt most legislation.  Unfortunately, those same Senate rules may make it very difficult to produce an intelligent tax product before expiration date of the Bush tax cuts.

The Senate: Sluggish in a Good Way

August 5th, 2010 at 12:57 pm 19 Comments

Well, buy it has now become officially fashionable inside the nation’s capital to bash the United States Senate.

Last year, pilule the lament de jour was how partisan Congress and politics had become.  That view succumbed to an accurate assessment of history (remember the Civil War, sale for one thing).

Now, a lengthy jeremiad by George Packer in the latest issue of The New Yorker solidifies the Manhattan view of the Senate as just too slow in this cyber-age.

David Broder’s column this morning, “A Senate without Leaders”, praising the Packer article, also puts the official seal of D.C. approval on the view that the Senate is dysfunctional.

Packer’s fundamental thesis seems to be that the Senate has too many rules of procedure, these rules are arcane and anachronistic, and the Senate, as it really is, has made some newcomers and a few veteran Senators mad.  Oh, to add a little color and controversy to the article, Packer describes how much time Senators allegedly spend on fund-raising, how changed such legislative powerhouses as former Senator Gary Hart view the current Senate, and the obligatory disdainful quote from Norm Ornstein, claiming that the Senate has become increasingly populated by “ideologues and charlatans.”

Packer proceeds to list initiative after initiative that he apparently believes should become law, but haven’t because of the obstruction of the Senate rules and the Senate minority.  In my many years as a senior Senate staffer, I have seen such wish lists before. They mirror the wish lists every President intones in the State of Union Address, and each platform plank the parties adopt at their conventions.

Let’s try the view of a practitioner of Senate legislation, instead of outside observers who have never written a single word of legislation.

The Senate used to be better when Lyndon Johnson was Majority Leader claim some.  No, I would respond, the Senate was more malleable to Johnson because he controlled the money to candidates and had a huge majority with which to work.  Read Caro and see if you really want to go back to the Johnson days.

The Senate has become more partisan than ever, the rant goes, and it took a whole 18 months to pass a healthcare reform bill because of that partisanship.  Well, it took about 20 years to finally pass Medicare, and it takes years to pass most bills that impose new regimes on long-standing economic institutional relationships. Every year that “good ideas” failed to pass the Senate were years in which I thanked the rules of the U.S. Senate.

“Bright ideas” and “reform” have become the mantra of the Blackberry generation.  “I have an idea, and it is good, and I want it to pass right now,” a truly narcissistic Senator might say.  That Senator is in the wrong business. He needs to become an executive of a state, where he will encounter partisanship of a more rugged sort than in the U.S. Senate.  Or perhaps, he or she needs to go run a company, where the success or failure of “good ideas” becomes painfully obvious quite quickly.

In a global competition in which scientific knowledge and professional competence have become sine qua non, we have a Congress made up predominately of folks who have almost nothing more than law degrees and “beliefs.”  It is slightly unsettling to hear all these good ideas about healthcare from people who have almost no knowledge of medicine; or propositions to end America’s energy dependence on hydrocarbons from those who have no experience either in energy nor engineering; or, profound pronouncements on how to cure problems in the global financial world from people whose closest touch with finance is their monthly bank and investment mail.

No, I say, thank goodness and the Founding Fathers for the United States Senate and thank goodness for its rules.

So much mischief has dropped into the proper filing tool because of those rules.

Bipartisan Purging

May 17th, 2010 at 1:11 pm 18 Comments

The defeat of Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, the harrowing race faced by Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, and the howlings of outrage on blogs from far left to far right about government policy, confirm what William Butler Yeats once wrote:  “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

While savages moderate Democratic members of Congress and President Obama, the various Tea Party “spokesmen” rant against Republicans who dare in any manner to look for a bi-partisan center in which to form legislation.

We used to say that the far right and far left were the “tails that wagged the dogs.”  Now, the dogs have disappeared, leaving only the violently flailing tails.  As we wrote earlier in this space, the pull of both caucuses in Congress is toward the poles of policy, not toward a constructive center.  Both parties find themselves intimidated by their “bases,” those partisans who show up to vote no matter what and who tolerate little short of hair-shirt orthodoxy.

Florida’s Charlie Crist, once odds-on favorite to win the Senate nomination for Republicans, has now become an independent and is falling in the polls.  The notion that an independent can win a party nomination in this political atmosphere seems silly from the beginning; Crist’s continued fall in the polls confirms what most political pros know already–independents rarely vote in party primaries in off-years. Any chance that the Democratic nominee, Rep. Kendrick Meek, has to win has been enhanced by the Crist-Rubio debacle.

In Pennsylvania, all the momentum is with Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak as he tries to upend once-Republican, now Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter.  Either has to be considered a slight underdog to the Republican nominee, former Rep. Pat Toomey, one of the founders of the Club for Growth, another force for “purity” inside the Republican Party.  It seems unlikely that the Democratic base in Pennsylvania will turn out anyone but a “true” Democrat and Specter fails to meet that test.

All incumbents seem to be under greater scrutiny than ever by their party activists.  Since Democrats have more incumbents at risk, it seems likely that Republicans will pick up substantial seats in the House and Senate, but not enough at this point to take control of either Chamber.

But, nothing in the polling data shows a great surge in popularity for Republicans.  Angry and fearful voters seem to dislike almost everybody and everything.  The blogosphere reeks of violent language from both extremes and woe to anyone connected to Washington, D.C.  Denizens of the Capitol, captains of Wall Street, the wealthy of any background provide fodder for the purists.

Ironically, those who call for less government, lower taxes, and a balanced budget, rarely know just for what they wish.  Those same activists would largely reject the cuts in Medicare and Social Security that a true balanced budget during the next 20 years would require.  And, those who want larger government, higher taxes on “the rich,” and less concern about deficits and debt, shield themselves from the economic catastrophe that might await the nation if present fiscal trends persist.

Yet, the screaming continues.

Yeats had it right nearly a century ago:  “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”

Developing a Centrist Consensus is Critical

February 9th, 2010 at 1:02 pm 1 Comment

American public opinion in almost every way we can measure bunches up toward the moderate middle. Yet increasingly the tone of politics seems to invite and reward extremism. FrumForum examines whether it has to be so. We have asked a range of individuals who identify themselves as centrists (or are so identified by others) some questions about their politics.

*  *  *

1) Would it be possible or desirable to create a broad consensus on the basics of public policy, ed either domestic or international?

A broad consensus on “the basics of public policy” remains desirable and eventually will become critical.  As the nation faces the consequences of its domestic spending policies, treatment developed during the past many decades, a centrist-driven effort to fundamentally reform entitlement spending and the tax code is the only answer to a growing domestic and international threat.  Agreeing on what international situations demand United States military involvement also requires a centrist consensus.

2) On which domestic issues and international issues do people with whom you generally agree take positions that trouble you?

The emphasis on “social issues”—abortion, values training, sexual policies—that many of my colleagues have seems out of place in a national government dedicated to maximum freedom for the greatest number of people.  The desire to interfere in the private choices by individuals, and measuring the “goodness” of others by their choices seems the height of arrogance and contrary to the vision of the Founding Fathers.

3) On which domestic issues and international issues do people with whom you generally disagree take positions that you welcome?

Emphasizing more environmental considerations in public policy, federal assistance for the truly impoverished, and improved educational standards are issues on which I generally agree with those who are on the opposite side of many other issues I consider important.

4) Which issues are so important to you that you cannot envision compromising on them?

Almost none, if the proposals from the other side are reasonable and consistent with both personal freedom and national security

5) Conversely have your political adversaries ever made arguments so compelling that they made you reconsider or revise long-held positions?

I have few rigidly-held views that flow from public policy.

6) How can civility be brought back to political discourse?

Reduce the time allowed for campaigning, as the British do;  work hard at forming centrist groups, like the bi-partisan Chiefs of Staff meetings established in the Senate several years ago; having the personal courage to resist the “tribal” pull of colleagues in either party caucus.

Click here to read other contributions to this symposium.

Obama Lacking the “Vision Thing”

January 28th, 2010 at 10:31 pm 2 Comments

At some point in the George W. Bush Presidency, salve the majority of American citizens simply stopped listening to the President.

That seemed to have begun early in the second Bush term, when the President spoke and seemed bored because he knew his audience was bored.

President Obama’s State of the Union Address last night may be the first sign that Americans may have begun to tune his words out.

He repeated the tired old theme, “It’s all Bush’s fault.”  He called for bipartisanship at the same time he jabbed Republicans for not doing things his way.  He called for a partial freeze on the very smallest part of the federal budget—non-defense, discretionary domestic spending.  If his freeze really occurs, it will be nothing more than a rounding error in the projected trillion deficit for the next decade.  He called for a joint commission on fiscal reform and deficit reduction, which seems not much more than cover for many Democrats who will be up for re-election this November.

What was glaringly absent was any aggressive new vision for the nation.  In this regard, he seemed to retrogress to the George H.W. Bush “You know, it’s that vision thing” tone.  No specific suggestions on how to forge bi-partisanship on the scarred healthcare bill still pending Congressional action;  no new ideas on climate change or energy policy;  nothing new on the economy, except the “jobs creation” initiative already beginning its Congressional Odyssey; and merely obligatory nods to immigration reform.

The famous former House Speaker Sam Rayburn once said, “If you can’t beat on big banks and big oil, it must not be America.”  President Obama has revised that slightly — now it’s big health insurance and big banks.  Obama’s bashing banks, financial institutions, health insurance companies, and profits had echoes of an old-fashioned populist anger that periodically roils American politics.

Certainly the speech contained nothing that got to the heart of the President’s political problem — the much-observed revolt of the independent voter.  That creature, under investigation of almost unprecedented intensity by pundits, wants “something.”  The creature isn’t sure what it wants, because it thought it had voted for “change” in 2008.  Now “change” seems to have morphed into a change that the independents don’t want.  What does the independent voter really want?  It kind of reminds me of the age- old question, “What do women really want?”   Politicians seems as mystified on how to make independents happy, just as most men are clueless about women.

In large part, the State of the Union Address captured the present political landscape — attack deficits, but don’t touch my Social Security or Medicare;  create jobs, but make sure you punish those bad banks that lend money to job-creating businesses;  make sure that we insure every citizen, but make sure we don’t increase government intrusion.  The contradictory forces inside America today forced the President to simply punt:  give a speech that limits political damage, and get off stage as quickly as possible.

The President also got a chance to see real fear in the flesh:  literally dozens of endangered Democratic Members of Congress hoping to survive in November.  They listened carefully, hoping that the President would say something and suggest anything, that will change the political tide.

Now there is “change” Congress can really embrace.

The Coming Club for Growth Versus Tea Party Fight

January 14th, 2010 at 4:43 pm 8 Comments

One thing political parties and partisans seem never to learn:  the purer you are, physician the more you lose.

The divisions of Red and Green parties in ancient Rome, where heads literally rolled, have manifested themselves in the blog beheadings by the two greatest proponents of purity in American politics today:  the “progressive” left of the Democratic Party and the “purifier” forces in the Republican Party.  So far, the great achievements of these two forces has been two-fold:  the Progressives have been able to help President Obama’s approval ratings  tank; and, the Republican purists have been able to facilitate the Republican loss of the 23rd House District of New York and help push Sen. Arlen Specter over to the Democratic Party.

But, and the Club for Growth have so much more work to do.  After all, the theological nature of these two groups demands that they drive out apostasy even if it means that they defeat the very policies they purport to support.

One of the best current examples is Charlie Crist in Florida.  By all accounts, Crist should have as close to a lock  on the next Senate seat from Florida as one can have. But,  fueled by support from the most conservative social and anti-tax elements in the Florida GOP, former Florida State House Speaker Marco Rubio has decided to challenge Crist in the Republican primary.   The first palpable result of this internecine war has been the resignation of Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer last week.  While the resignation emerged from a variety of factors, a major one was the fact that Greer supports Crist.

Adding injury to insult, Crist’s home county Republican Party Executive Committee took a straw poll to see where the GOP activists stood on the race — and Rubio won, 106-54.  Media reports are that Crist is now running a new web video that tries to paint Rubio as a “late-comer” to the true conservative faith.  A  chance exists that the two will scar each other up enough that the Democrats will gain the seat.  Then, both the Club for Growth and the Tea Party activists can claim victory—after all they then would have helped elect someone who will vote against the interests of both groups.

The old cliché is that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.  Expecting a Democratic Senator to pursue the interests of the Club for Growth is a form of insanity.

The facile observation that this is the result of “Tea Party” anger misses a larger historical theme that has roiled the Republican Party for decades — the battle between the Libertarian members (Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan) and what was once called the “Moral Majority” (think Jerry Falwell).   In regional terms, one could say Southwest and West Coast against the Old South and Border states.  Libertarians by and large say, “Do what you want, but don’t scare my horses doing it.”  The social conservatives say, “If you don’t do what I want,  then I will have my horses stomp you.”

If we were to scratch most of the Tea Party protesters, we would probably find just as many libertarians as social conservatives, if not more. Indeed, the battle within the GOP won’t be among  so-called moderates, social conservatives, and populists.  The real battle will be between the pro-Ayn Rand Club for Growth (which supports the right of any banker in New York City to make any amount of money he or she can) and the populist Tea Party gang (which wants to hang every banker in New York City).  The present marriage of convenience between these two forces cannot last.  Can one imagine a true Tea Party member supporting the right of Goldman Sachs’ employees to make as much money as they can, regardless of the consequences to society?  Or the Club for Growth insisting that their members absolutely condemn abortion in any circumstance?

So, Charlie Crist in Florida,and many other conservative, but not theologically pure, Republicans will find themselves caught between these forces in the next 9 months.  Where this leaves the folks who are trying to balance a constructively smaller government with a practical maximum of individual freedom remains unclear.

It does leave immense openings for any number of Republicans—from Mitch Daniels in Indiana, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Bob Corker of Tennessee,  Mitt Romney, to Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin—to forge some form of coalition among the groups based both on fiscal prudence and on personal freedom.

Or, as once was written in this land, the freedom  of  Americans to  pursue life, liberty and happiness.

Don’t Blame the Filibuster

January 8th, 2010 at 3:01 pm 11 Comments

Pleas for Congressional “bi-partisanship”  flood the media marketplace.  Esteemed columnists and think tank analysts call for more bi-partisan agreement on major issues.

Many of these fervent calls identify the need for 60 votes to pass most major bills in the Senate as emblematic of the parliamentary gimmicks that have  clogged Congress’ legislative agenda.

Yet, tadalafil a review of the history of extended debate (the “filibuster” in common parlance) and efforts to contain such debate indicate that the Senate has gradually tightened its restrictions on filibuster.  This history stands despite the greatly expanded use of the filibuster as a routine parliamentary maneuver in the Senate.

When the Senate first convened, sildenafil no restrictions on extended debate existed.  “Cloture,” the formal name for ending a filibuster, was part of a Senate rules change in the early 20th Century.  The Senate rules at the time required two-thirds of Senators “present and voting” to vote to cut off debate on an issue.  If all Senators voted, it would take 67 aye votes to stop a filibuster.

In the 1970s, the Senate again tightened its rules against the filibuster.  The two-thirds requirement was dropped.  In its place the Senate voted that it would take 60 aye votes of Senators “chosen and sworn” to cut off debate.  As a sweetener, the Senate agreed to allow 30 hours of “post-cloture” debate to those engaged in the filibuster.

Should the Senate act once again to make extended debate more difficult?  If so, what reforms might really work to accomplish what the reformers seem to  want — more legislation passed more quickly,  less antagonism among Senators and between the two parties. And is the cloture 60-vote requirement the problem?

Both reform impulses seem to run counter to the notion of the Senate as  the saucer that cools the spilt milk.  In the House of Representatives, the Rules Committee issues the terms and conditions of debate on issues that are to come to the House floor.  That Committee almost always is chosen from among those Members who are most reliably supporters of their party’s leadership.  Thus, free and open debate, without restriction, has become extremely rare in the House.  In short, if you have a majority, you can do what you wish.  That’s how the hot milk found itself in the saucer.

Thomas Jefferson warned more than 200 years ago, “Great innovations should not be forced on a slender majority.”  If that notion still rings true, and I believe it does, then the 60-vote requirement to pass major legislation in the Senate makes eminent sense.

In a further contrarian mode, I believe it is not parliamentary procedure, including the 60-vote requirement, that has clogged the legislative arteries.  Indeed, it is the power of the caucuses of both parties in the Senate that causes an excess of “bad legislative chloresterol.”  The demands of the caucus, playing as they do on the age-old almost tribal question of “are you with us or them, “ constrain bi-partisanship much more than Senate rules.

The Senate cannot keep a Senator from entering the Chamber and voting.  But, party caucuses can, and have, ostracized their maverick members from the important Tuesday policy luncheons within which legislative strategy often solidifies.  While some leeway is accorded members who may face difficult re-election races, that leeway is not absolute.  On some issues, the caucuses simply demand that its members vote “with the leadership” despite any electoral pain it might cause a Member — and, notwithstanding any legitimate policy objections a Member might have.

Thus, Senate  Majority Leader Harry Reid found his most intractable  problems during the healthcare reform debate within his own party caucus, not with the 40 Republican Members of the Senate.  Those who “erred” from the party line have been given many labels, many of them not fit for a family publication, both publicly and privately.  To most outside observers, it seemed inconceivable that the 60 Democrats couldn’t pass fairly easily the healthcare reform bill.  To insiders, those who have worked on Senate staff and have had to field the thousands of emails, letters, phone calls, and visits by angry constituents, such a dilemma seemed inevitable.  Cloture had nothing to do with the problem — demands for absolute party line behavior caused it.

I know of no solution to that strong and primal appeal to “loyalty” to the group, to the “us or them” instinct.

To get back to the cloture, 60-vote question, one signal bill in 2005 shows how to get bi-partisanship AND avoid cloture.  In 2005 the House and Senate passed major energy bills.  In large part passage came in the Senate because of the personal courage of then-Minority Member Sen. Jeff Bingaman and then-Chairman Sen. Pete Domenici.  They started with a talk between the two of them.  They then went back to their Energy Committee colleagues and persuaded a bi-partisan majority.  They then briefed their leadership on the proposed document.  The left in the Democratic Party and the right in the Republican Party had strong objections.  But, Domenici and Bingaman, by starting apart from party platforms or caucus demands, and working outward were able to pass a major bill.  They achieved the same result with the Energy Policy Act of 2007, this time with Bingaman as Chairman and Domenici as Ranking Minority Member.

All this came after a painful Senate spectacle in 2003, when, as Domenici admitted later, Republicans consciously barred true Democratic participation and tried to pass a Republican only energy bill.  Not incidentally, the 2003 effort could not get 60 votes and failed.

As we used to say in high school geometry, quod erat demonstrandum.  Restrict cloture further and undermine the Senate’s role as a calming legislative force.  Reduce the power of the caucuses and get more bi-partisan, broadly-supported policy.  Or, in the jargon of the day, bottom-up legislation has a much better chance than top-down.