Stupak and the Senate

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The progressive blogosphere has been making a lot of noise recently about how the big problem for Barack Obama isn’t any fault of his own—it’s simply that the archaic, undemocratic Senate gets in the way of passing major legislation. John Heilemann has a big article on this theory in this week’s New York magazine, but Matt Yglesias probably offered the best distillation of it in a blog post last week:

Somewhere between 90 and 100 members of the United States Senate seem committed to the current supermajority system for passing legislation. The supermajority system could be changed, but it can’t be changed by Obama. And thus to assemble 60 votes, Obama needs to rely on Democrats who represent such states as Arkansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Indiana, South Dakota, Montana, and Nebraska. These states are all more conservative than the average American state. This makes it, objectively, very difficult to secure 60 votes for a progressive legislative agenda. In the House of Representatives, which is elected in a different way, Obama hasn’t had a major problem securing a majority for a progressive legislative agenda.

I am very sympathetic to this theory. It’s probably true that, on balance, getting rid of the filibuster (or the Senate itself) would help progressives not just in the short term, but also down the road. But it’s worth remembering that if the Senate didn’t exist, Rep. Bart Stupak’s amendment to the House bill—which would dramatically reduce the availability of private insurance plans that cover abortion—would be the law of the land. Of course, health care reform would also have already passed. Dumping the Senate would come with some tough trade-offs.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

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