Learning from the Senate

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Learning from the Senate

After the U.S. House of Representatives passed historic health care reform legislation on Nov. 7, 2009, the U.S. Senate passed the final version of the bill on Christmas Eve.

What we consider one of the most enviable traits of American politics is the president’s active involvement in persuading legislators to back his views, as recently shown with the health care bill. That is quite different from the Blue House here in Korea, which insists that the budget bill is a matter that should be dealt with in the National Assembly.

The second enviable trait of the American political system is the presence of across-the-aisle voting. Senator Olympia Snowe cast the lone Republican vote in support of the health care bill early on, which cleared the way for the Senate to pass the legislation. During the vote in the House, Republican Joseph Cao backed the bill and thus changed the political landscape.

Another enviable part of the U.S. political system is that opposition in the form of physical force is unimaginable. The country actively engages in the policy process by sharing ideas and discussing matters rationally. Nonpartisan Sen. Bernie Sanders, during a Senate debate, asked a secretary to read the full text of the 2,074-page bill to impede the progress of the proceedings. However, after the vote to end the filibuster was conducted, no one filed an objection to the decision.

Politicians in the U.S. also have never confused the inside of government buildings with the outside. Thousands of people participated in a protest against the health care reform bill in front of the U.S. Capitol early last month. Although 40 Republican senators were asked to participate, none complied with the requests. While actions inside government buildings can reflect the passions and views from the outside, politicians in the United States refrain from engaging in direct violent confrontations and protests.

Additionally, U.S. politicians accept the outcomes of votes, no matter how much they might disagree with them. Republicans, for instance, still insist that a majority of Americans do not want to accept the health care bill. But they accept it nonetheless.

U.S. politicians also strive to reflect the party’s platform by following legitimate political procedures. At the same time, voters abide by the results as well. Their main concern is whether their opinions were reflected.

American lawmakers even work through the weekends and all through the night when important agenda items are on the table. We can learn a lot from the latest example of U.S. politics.

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