Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hope for filibuster reform

What's the most important issue facing the U.S. Senate right now? For someone like me who is more interested in process than substance, the answer is easy. It's filibuster reform, and it's shaping up to be a bruising battle that will be fought right at the outset of the session beginning in January. Minority Leader McConnell agrees that this is the number one issue facing his members. He is quoted as saying that opposition to filibuster reform "may be the most important thing you ever do."

Why do we need filibuster reform? Precisely because Mitch McConnell has abused the filibuster more than any minority leader in Congress in U.S. history. By far. This chart should be enough to persuade anyone that we have a problem, and we have to do something about it.

(Chicago Tribune)

I'd like to ask Senator McConnell what would have happened if Republicans had won the 2012 presidential election, and also held majorities in both the House and Senate. Would Republicans sit quietly without protest if the Democratic Senate minority tried to prevent a vote on every single piece of important legislation the new Republican administration tried to pass, as Republicans have done for the past four years to the Obama administration? Of course not. If Republicans had obtained the majority, they probably would be planning some kind of filibuster reform themselves, just as Democrats are now proposing. The vicious cycle has to stop. At this point, the only way that is going to happen is by changing the rules.

The rules changes being proposed are not particularly radical. They will not by any means eliminate the ability of the minority to filibuster. Instead, they will require that any Senators who want to prevent a vote on a bill will actually have to take to the floor and debate the bill to death. No longer will the minority be allowed routinely to require the majority to get 60 votes on a cloture motion before there can be a vote on the actual bill, as is the case now. If the minority wants to prevent a vote on a bill, they will have to do what the public commonly thinks of as an old-fashioned filibuster. Stand up and make speeches against the bill, or at least muster the presence of some Senators on the floor. Let the public see who is preventing legislation from being passed. If it's a noble cause, and the public respects the feelings of the minority, more power to them. But if the public begins to understand just how routinely the minority has prevented action on Senate bills and appointments that have broad public support, the minority might just have to reduce their reliance on this device to the rare occurrence that it is supposed to be.


  1. << I'd like to ask Senator McConnell what would have happened if Republicans had won the 2012 presidential election >>

    You are so transparent. I'd like to ask you if you remember who the two most vocal critics of ending the filibuster in 2005 when the Dems were in the minority? Sen Reid and Sen Obama went off at a mere mention of ending the filibuster or the nuclear option.

    Reid: "Ending the filibuster is a sheer act of brute force."

    Obama: Everyone in this chamber (Senate) knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster, then the fighting, the bitterness, the gridlock, will only get worse." "I know the Republicans are under a lot of pressure to do this, but we need to rise above the 'ends justify the means' mentality, because we are here to represent the people, all of the people, not just the ones wearing our party label."

    Do you get a sense of why even centrist don't trust a word out of Obama and Reid's mouth? They are all about power.

  2. One more from Harry Reid when he was supporting the filibuster in 2005: He called it "The last check against abusive power."

    1. The Democrats are not proposing to do away with the filibuster. Only to do away with secret filibusters. The idea is that if you want to filibuster, you will have to take to the floor. And they are very cognizant that they might end up in the minority again, so they are trying to craft a rule that they could live with as the minority.