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.
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.