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A mere majority is probably too low a standard for passing laws

Posted by John Reed on

There are some who believe the Senate with its undemocratic rules like the filibuster and it long six-year terms is needed to have a more slow-moving, thoughtful, less emotional and therefore superior house of Congress that produces better legislative decisions than the more mob-like House.

So raise the percentage needed to make a law

Folks, if that sort of thing is what you want, switch to national binding referendums and a citizen congress and adjust the percentage needed to make a law. 50% is not sacrosanct.

We can make it 52% or 58% or 60% or 66%—whatever we want. Amendments to the Constitution require a 75% majority of states. I think that is too high.

We already do partly

We already have lots of different percentages for different things. I submit that laws passed by a majority are the most unpopular laws of all. Obamacare is the prime example. Lets go to the other end of the spectrum: the 27 amendments to the Constitution. The only unpopular one I can recall is Prohibition. It was repealed.

Some would say the income tax amendment is unpopular. So repeal it. The fact that is has not been repealed shows it is not unpopular. The reason is Americans now think someone else pays the income tax—the rich—not them, and that they will somehow get more out than they put in, a free lunch.

In CA we have referendums and a number of them have raised the percentage needed to pass some laws. A couple require a 2/3 vote to raise taxes. Those are very popular.

In criminal jury trials, a vote of 100% is often required. Jury trials are popular with most of the public, unlike Congress.

Fewer laws—Great!

To be sure, raising the percentage approval needed to enact a law would mean fewer laws would be enacted. But those of us who truly love freedom PREFER fewer laws. The Founders almost certainly intended fewer laws. Only those who prefer totalitarianism—Democrats—want more laws and call sessions with fewer laws “do-nothing” Congresses. Texas, one of the most prosperous states, has a legislature that meets every other year.


Maybe we should experiment with various percentages. Enact an amendment that requires a higher than 50% approval for laws—put a sunset on it—like five years.

That would force us to say again that we like it at that time. Over time, I expect we would find that the most popular percentage was somewhere in the high 50s. And that Americans would like Congress more—although that is not my goal. I would prefer that Congress be run like a grand jury and that the most important decisions be made by national binding referendums. They, too could require higher than a 50% majority.

Don’t overdo it

There are limits. My homeowners association requires something like 2/3 and has never changed a single rule no matter how innocuous and many efforts have been made.

I am in favor of fewer laws, but not a strait jacket where the first version is the only one we ever have. That would be like the Constitution without the 27 amendments. And those amendments include freedom of speech and religion, end of slavery, right to bear arms, due process, trial by jury, prohibition on voting based on race, female suffrage.

Vary according to importance

It is possible that the correct percentage should vary, as it does now, in Congress and certain other subjects like raising taxes in CA. The public will be unhappiest the more important the law in question is and the lower the percentage required to pass it.

It is now emerging that Obama care, which only passed by the thinest margin the Senate, can be unfunded by a mere majority, but replacing it, which now is being made a requirement by Democrats and some Republicans, requires a filibuster-proof—60 votes—in the Senate.

No replacement, no repeal. So rules which let things become law by a mere majority, but require a super majority to repeal, favor the Democrat party’s march to total government control of everything. These are fishhook or ratchet laws. The Democrats need only a momentary majority to enact, but the Republicans need a super majority to repeal.

It looks like the Republicans will once again wimp out on Obamacare. They need to end the filibuster. But they don’t have the guts.

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