What did the parliamentarian rule?

THURSDAY, APRIL 8, 2021

A journalistic conundrum: At the start of this week, the Senate parliamentarian, by all accounts, made a very significant ruling. 

The ruling concerns the legislative procedure commonly known as "reconciliation." How important is this ruling believed to be?

The ruling is believed to be very important! But can anyone in the upper-end press explain what the ruling was?

Can anyone explain what the parliamentarian said? The answer seems to be no. 

For today, we'll look at the first attempt by the New York Times to explain this important new ruling. We direct you to Emily Cochrane's news report in Tuesday's print editions.

This was the New York Times' first attempt to explain what the parliamentarian had ruled. Was Cochrane able to handle that task? Hard-copy headline included, her news report started like this:

COCHRANE (4/6/21): Democrats Win Key Tool For Enacting Biden Plans

A top Senate official ruled on Monday that Democrats could use the fast-track budget reconciliation process for a second time this fiscal year, potentially handing them broader power to push through President Biden’s agenda, including his infrastructure plan, over Republican opposition.

The decision by the parliamentarian means that Democrats can essentially reopen the budget plan they passed in February and add directives to enact the infrastructure package or other initiatives, shielding them from a filibuster that requires 60 votes to overcome.

It came as Democratic leaders were contemplating how to use their slim majorities in the House and Senate to enact Mr. Biden’s infrastructure proposals, including a huge public-works plan he released last week and a second initiative to be released in the coming months to address economic inequities, provide paid leave to workers and support child care.

But the decision has potential significance beyond those plans, and even the current Congress. The guidance could substantially weaken the filibuster by allowing the majority party to use budget reconciliation—a powerful tool that allows measures related to taxes and spending to pass on a majority vote—multiple times in a single fiscal year. That would dilute the power of the minority to stall or block such legislation in the Senate, the latest bid by the party in power to chip away at the arcane filibuster rules.

That's the way Cochrane started. Let's summarize what's been said:

According to Cochrane's report, "budget reconciliation" is a powerful tool which "allows measures related to taxes and spending to pass on a majority vote."

As Cochrane notes, other measures can be filibustered in the Senate. Essentially, this means that they require 60 votes (out of 100) to be enacted into law. Under "budget reconciliation," a measure can pass into law with just a simple majority in the Senate—with just 51 votes.

That's the easy part. Now, we ask you to try to discern, from Cochrane's account, what the parliamentarian has ruled.

Cochrane starts by saying this, right in paragraph one: 

According to the ruling, Senate Democrats can use the reconciliation process "for a second time this fiscal year." She never explains why a parliamentarian's ruling was needed to let them do this.

Beyond that, she rather clearly seems to say that the Democrats' first use of reconciliation occurred in "the budget plan [the Democrats] passed in February." But as she continues, she proceeds to say this: 

COCHRANE (continuing directly): It was not clear how Democrats would use their newfound power, or for what. But the preliminary guidance from Elizabeth MacDonough, the parliamentarian, most likely gives them additional opportunities to push elements of Mr. Biden’s agenda through the 50-to-50 Senate without abolishing the filibuster or watering down their proposals to win at least 10 Republican votes.

Democrats had already used budget reconciliation to push through Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus last month without any Republican votes. But with some Democrats reluctant to dismantle the filibuster, the rest of Mr. Biden’s agenda risks stalling amid Republican objections.

Uh-oh! Now we're told that Democrats "already used budget reconciliation to push through Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus last month." This rather clearly seems to suggest that Senate Democrats have already used reconciliation twice this year—first for "the budget plan they passed in February," then again for the  "$1.9 trillion stimulus [they passed] last month" (in March). 

Confusion lurks elsewhere as well. In her opening paragraph, Cochrane says the parliamentarian's ruling means that Senate Democrats can use reconciliation process "for a second time this year." That would seem to suggest that they can use the procedure two times in all.

But in paragraph 4, she seems to say that the ruling means that the Dems can use reconciliation "multiple times" this year. Does that mean they could use the procedure more than twice? Go ahead! Try to figure that out!

Can Democrats use the procedure twice, or can they use it more than twice? Haven't they already used it twice—in February for the budget bill, then again in March for the $1.9 trillion Covid/stimulus package?

We're sorry, but we find Cochrane's explanation to be less clear than mud. And yet, this is the work of the New York Times, the smartest newspaper in Our Town—and here in Our Town, we constantly say that we're just extremely smart.

(For the record: In our view, the confusion only grows as Cochrane's report continues past these first six paragraphs.)

Cochrane is three years out of college (University of Florida, class of 2017). In our view, this makes her very young, as these things go—but her editor is surely older, and the lack of clarity in this report is quite typical of the work one finds in the New York Times.

In fairness to Cochrane, Rachel Maddow spent 25 minutes on Monday night, clowning and mincing as she pretended to explain this same ruling. Cochrane's report is a model of clarity compared to Maddow's string of self-contradictions, a ball of confusion buried inside an insipid entertainment / self-promotion package.

Maddow's performance was her latest ridiculous disgrace. Cochrane has simply presented work which is quite hard to decipher.

Can anybody here play this game? That's what Casey Stengel once asked about the hapless New York Mets.

Quite often, that same question comes to mind as we peruse the work of our upper-end press corps. Many have gone to the finest schools, but it doesn't much seem to have helped.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but we are in a boatload of trouble here in our floundering town. Anthropologists say this is likely the best that creatures like us can do.

(More on this topic to come.)


43 comments:

  1. Dembots are happy, they believe the liberal-hitlerian cult has won one.

    That's what we get from the dembottery you quoted, dear Bob.

    But of course we have no idea if what the cult says it wants to do is what what it really wants to do. So, they can always tell one of their senators to 'refuse' to obey, and thus prevent some of the legislations they oh so badly want to pass from being passed. To 'leiberman' them, so to say. We'll see.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you imagine this idiot trying to explain something?

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  2. "As Cochrane notes, other measures can be filibustered in the Senate. Essentially, this means that they require 60 votes (out of 100) to be enacted into law."

    Somerby's summary is not quite correct. Those 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster, not to pass the legislation. The filibuster is used to block bills that the minority party objects to. If there is no objection and no filibuster, then legislation can pass with a majority vote. This is the same principle as that legislation that the president approves of and will sign does not need to be passed by a veto-proof majority.

    If Somerby is going to nitpick other people's summaries, he needs to be equally careful with his own.

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  3. "Uh-oh! Now we're told that Democrats "already used budget reconciliation to push through Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus last month.""

    Is there anyone in this country, capable of reading a newspaper, who doesn't know this already?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Passing a budget bill is not the same as the reconciliation process.

    Two reconciliation processes are permitted this year because no budget bill was passed in 2020 (because Trump is such a doofus).

    Somerby seems to think that, in addition to reporting the current news, journalists should provide remedial education in civics. In the limited space or time permitted by whatever media is involved. Anybody can look up anything they don't understand using Google. Even Somerby.

    These criticisms are specious. The quibbles that Somerby raises do not interfere at all with whatever point was being made by Cochrane or Maddow. Sometimes, in fact, too much technical detail interferes with understanding. These are the essays that make me think Somerby must be somewhere on the autism spectrum, both because he cares about these details (or pretends to) and because he cannot understand summaries that gloss the technicalities in order to present the bottom-line or bigger picture. Somerby, in his excessive literalness, doesn't seem to function well with abstraction. Or perhaps he is simply playing an elaborate linguistic game in order to portray journalists as incompetent, because they have paying jobs and are female, and Somerby can't stand it that they are successful.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Many have gone to the finest schools, but it doesn't much seem to have helped."

    The same can be said of Somerby.

    Why does he keep quoting Robert Frost when it is a total non-sequitur?

    ReplyDelete
  6. "the lack of clarity in this report is quite typical of the work one finds in the New York Times."

    If this kind of lack of comprehension is happening to Somerby frequently, maybe the fault is not with the New York Times?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Here is another of those attacks on Asian-Americans that Somerby thinks aren't really happening:

    "A woman was arrested Tuesday after allegedly harassing employees at a New York City nail salon, a person outside, and an undercover Asian officer who intervened. According to The Washington Post, the woman, identified as 50-year-old Sharon Williams, walked into a nail salon in Manhattan’s Chinatown only to harass and threaten Asian workers.

    “You brought coronavirus to this country!” the woman yelled, according to police officials. She then left the salon and targeted others on the sidewalk including a bystander who intervened, calling him a “Chinese motherf---er who brought COVID to this country!” Little did she know that the man was not an ordinary bystander, but an undercover NYPD officer." From DailyKos

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A verbal attack? There's always been verbal attacks against Asian-Americans ... and every ethnic group ... every day since the dawn of time. Every permutation of every race, gender, religion and sexual preference has endured a verbal attack, every day since the dawn of history. So thanks for the earth shattering news. Sick burn on Bob from the brilliant DailyKos!!!!

      Dumbfuck.

      Delete
    2. Murders happen every day too. Does that make them OK?

      Somerby is the one who claimed these hate-motivated attacks were not happening. He isn't saying they're nothing, like you are. He said they were made up.

      Nice to know that folks like you condone what is happening.

      Delete
    3. @6:23: Read the original Somerby post, dumbfuck:

      “Racial invective on the streets of New York!

      FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2021”
      (http://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/2021/02/racial-invective-on-streets-of-new-york.html)

      It’s about racial invective against Asian Americans.

      Somerby criticizes an oped in the Times by an Asian woman where she documents examples of racial invective. Somerby asks:

      “Are these anecdotes true?”

      And “Really? As of 2018 or 2019, strangers would routinely address the full-grown Wang with their eyes pulled back into a slant while taunting her by saying, “Me love you long time?” 
      Other strangers would taunt her by loudly saying that they had “yellow fever?” 
      Is this the common experience of Asian-Americans in New York City? If so, this should be a front-page news report, not a mere op-ed column promoting a forthcoming memoir”

      So yeah, 4:21 is an answer to Somerby’s “questions.”

      Delete
    4. Hello bird brain, he's questioning if the particular anecdotes in the op-ed happened routinely and commonly to the author (a good question), not saying racial invective against Asian Americans "aren't really happening".

      You are so unbelievably daft and consumed with confirmation bias as to be embarrassing.You prove it day in and day out. Not that there's anything wrong with it. I'm sure you're just doing the best you can with what you've been given.

      Delete
    5. "Somerby is the one who claimed these hate-motivated attacks were not happening."

      That is completely false.

      Are you going to act like a fool for your whole life?

      Delete
    6. Somerby has no basis for questioning whether any of these incidents happened.

      Delete
    7. The point is Somerby never claimed attacks on Asian-Americans aren't really happening as you stupidly stated and the DailyKos article describes common verbal attacks, not cartoonish, unbelievable ones the millionaire op-ed writer tried to frame as common and contemporary.

      But I know you're far too stupid to digest anything that nuanced and that isn't pure, black and white tribalism. Fucking dumbfuck.

      Delete
    8. That op-ed writer described the same kinds of attacks as are being documented by AAPI. It doesn't matter how much money she has. Do you imagine that these haters are choosing their targets based on income?

      Delete
    9. You are a slave to your ego who is mortally threatened by any nuanced narrative that doesn't doesn't fit in a cops and robbers view of contemporary politics. Plus you turn to really low quality sources for information. (Their rai$$on d'etre is to feed that ego need.) It's sad and uncultured and stupid but it is also common. You are very common.

      Delete
    10. "op-ed writer described the same kinds of attacks as are being documented by AAPI. "

      Some. Others were cartoonishly absurd and unbelievable. (As of 2018 or 2019, strangers would routinely address the full-grown Wang with their eyes pulled back into a slant while taunting her by saying, “Me love you long time?” )

      You are stupid as hell and can't even see the huge difference. Go to hell with your idiotic shit for brains. Sad dumbfuck.

      Delete
    11. Her income is important because rich people routinely take advantage of gullible commoners like yourself. Anytime a millionaire like that one is asking you to spend your money on something they are selling, watch out!! Question every word and narrative. Especially in the NYT Op-ed.

      But I know you are far, far too stupid to understand any of this. That's cool. Let's just say Somerby is a Trumptard that thinks attacks on Asian-Americans aren't really happening. ;)

      Idiot.

      Delete
    12. On a more positive note, the next mayor of New York is going to be Asian. And he will be the first Asian president soon after if idiots like yourself don't screw it up.

      Delete
    13. Let's just say Somerby is a Trumptard that thinks attacks on Asian-Americans aren't really happening


      I don't know whether Somerby thinks (using the term very loosely) that attacks against Asian Americans aren't happening. However, it is clear that Somerby thinks it's far more important to defend Matt Gaetz, Roy Moore, Ron Johnson, Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan. Not surprising since Somerby is a Trumptard.

      Delete
    14. Who could argue with that logic?

      Delete
  8. “This rather clearly seems to suggest that Senate Democrats have already used reconciliation twice this year—first for "the budget plan they passed in February," then again for the  "$1.9 trillion stimulus [they passed] last month" (in March).”

    Either Somerby doesn’t know or he is pretending not to know the difference between a budget plan (or resolution) and a bill. The budget plan was passed in February with reconciliation instructions. The resulting American Rescue Plan Act (or “stimulus”) was passed in March via reconciliation.

    Cochrane clearly tells you what the parliamentarian’s ruling was. She says that Democrats are now allowed to “reopen the budget plan they passed in February and add directives to enact the infrastructure package or other initiatives, shielding them from a filibuster that requires 60 votes to overcome.”

    In other words, the budget plan can be revised and the revised plan can also contain reconciliation instructions.

    This means Democrats can essentially pass at least two bills off of the original budget plan using reconciliation.

    This is in addition to the fact (not the primary topic of Cochrane’s article) that this Congress was already able to do two reconciliation bills this year, for each of two fiscal years. Normally, only one is allowed in a given year.

    ReplyDelete
  9. And here is yet another Asian American targeted by a racist rant in Los Angeles:

    "An America Olympic karate athlete recently found herself getting accosted by an angry man who threatened her while yelling racial slurs.

    Local news station KTLA 5 reports that 28-year-old Sakura Kokumai, a gold medal winner at the 2019 Pan American Games, was training for the upcoming Olympics when a white man started yelling at her and threatening to attack her."

    This was caught on video. Somerby says these attacks are not happening -- that they are the exaggeration of a female Asian American lawyer who wrote a NY Times op-ed.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Maddow was at her cutsy poo worst on this stuff. But self promoting? Only if you go for it I guess.....

    ReplyDelete
  11. Maddow was at her cutsy poo worst on this stuff. But self promoting? Only if you go for it I guess.....

    ReplyDelete
  12. Maddow was at her cutsy poo worst on this stuff. But self promoting? Only if you go for it I guess.....

    ReplyDelete
  13. 'We're sorry, but we find Cochrane's explanation to be less clear than mud.'


    Because it's meant to be read by people who have a double digit IQ, not by Trumptards like you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Because it's meant to be read by people who have a double digit IQ, not by Trumptards like you."

      Agreed.

      Delete
  14. Maddow was at her cutsy poo worst on this stuff. But self promoting? Only if you go for it I guess.....
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  15. Some. Others were cartoonishly absurd and unbelievable. (As of 2018 or 2019, strangers would routinely address the full-grown Wang with their eyes pulled back into a slant while taunting her by saying, “Me love you long time?” )

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