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What Would America's Founders Think About Fleeing Legislators?

4:05 PM, Feb 28, 2011 • By WILLIAM C. MARRA
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The loser in all of this is democracy. By fleeing to Illinois or escaping to Major Boyd’s Tavern, dissenting lawmakers abuse the quorum rule, and they seize an unjustified veto over legislation supported by a majority of duly elected representatives. The quorum rule, designed to ensure majority rule and prevent a minority from co-opting the legislative process, is twisted to serve the very evil it was designed to combat, a tyranny of the minority. The recourse from controversial legislation like that in Wisconsin ought to be found at the ballot box, not in the dusk drive across state lines.

In the contentious times ahead, our leaders in Washington and statehouses across the land are certain to face that same temptation indulged by 14 senators in Wisconsin. These leaders would do well to remember that quorum busting undermines the quorum’s true purpose of preserving democratic legitimacy. They must ensure that our sporadic history of quorum busting does not become a revered precedent of which we count ourselves “very proud.”

William C. Marra is a student at Harvard Law School. 

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