Watchdog Blog

George Lardner Jr.: No 60 Votes Needed Here

Posted at 7:27 pm, January 22nd, 2010
George Lardner Mug

Item: The New York Times reported Friday afternoon that “two more Democratic senators” said they would vote against a second term for Fed Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. From there, the Times said this made it unclear “whether there were the 60 votes necessary to confirm Mr. Bernanke.”

Excuse me? Sixty votes are not necessary to confirm Bernanke or anyone else. They are not necessary to enact laws. Fifty-one votes will do it. Sixty votes are, of course, necessary to prevent a filibuster. Why does the media ratify, without question, the assumption that opposition to a bill, or a nomination, means that every opponent—in this instance Sens. Barbara Boxer and Russell Feingold–will take part in a filibuster or that they will refuse to block one? So they said they would vote against Bernanke. So what? They didn’t say they would take part in a filibuster. They didn’t say, or at least the Times didn’t say, that they would refuse to vote for cloture. The story, and countless other stories about the Senate, seem to assume that. The cowardice that has infected the Senate seems to have befuddled the media as well. Will it ever wake up?
An add-end: On Saturday morning, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal endorsed the same incorrect 60 votes arithmetic.

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