If Biden is willing to exercise the power granted him in the Constitution, he could do more than pass health care. He could undo the filibuster rules that threaten to deadlock our system of government.
The question of whether Congress will fulfill the dream of every modern Democratic president and pass health reform now rests on the intersection of two of the most complicated bits of congressional procedure -- the Senate's filibuster rule, which has become a 60-vote supermajority requirement, and the budget reconciliation process, which sets time limits for debate and thus can be a way around the filibuster. The current plan is to avoid the filibuster by having the House pass the bill that passed the Senate last year and then using reconciliation to make changes.
President Barack Obama started strong by announcing the end of torture and the closing of Guantánamo, but he has recently taken a more equivocal attitude toward the Bush constitutional legacy. While rejecting his predecessor's extreme claims, he continues to assert the presidential power to hold terrorists without trial and to keep state secrets from the courts. And he has already issued his first signing statement denouncing a few provisions of the stimulus package as unconstitutionally limiting his executive prerogatives.
Barack Obama's decisive victory reaffirms a pattern that dates back to the dawn of the Republic. Every 30 years or so, a new popular movement challenges established party identification and precipitates a reorganization of the electorate. From Jefferson to Jackson, Jackson to Lincoln, Lincoln to William Jennings Bryan, Bryan to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and FDR to Martin Luther King Jr., this cycle of change plays out with remarkable regularity. Twenty-eight years after the most recent pivotal election -- Ronald Reagan's victory in 1980 -- Obama has arrived right on schedule.
Barack Obama's rejection of public financing for the general election confronts us with a stark choice: Rethink the system or let it die. The current program has failed to generate sustained public support for good reason. It puts citizens on the sidelines and merely involves the bureaucratic transfer of funds from the Treasury to candidates who voluntarily forego private money. Given the lack of direct citizen involvement, it's not surprising that fewer than 10 percent of Americans support the campaign fund by checking off a box on their tax forms.
Perhaps Hillary Clinton is a risk-taker after all.
In a forum sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, Clinton pushed beyond the banalities of campaign rhetoric to offer a bold idea: Every child should have the right to share in the inherited wealth created by preceding generations. Whether the child is a child of a single mom or a pair of yuppies, the kid remains an American. As a citizen, he or she should receive a baby bond of $5,000 that represents an inheritance from the wealth created by his predecessors.