Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Filibuster reform dies in Senate

8:41 PM, Jan. 31, 2013  |  Comments
  • Filed Under

Members of the United States Senate reached agreement last week with overwhelming support from both parties. Unfortunately, they agreed to do nothing meaningful to reform the Senate filibuster rule that prevents the Senate from acting on almost anything of substance without at least 60 votes.

The Senate missed a rare opportunity to end abuse of the filibuster.

Congress returned to work after the November election with a new appreciation of just how frustrated the American people are with the partisan gridlock in Washington. But that post-election afterglow faded in less than a month.

Despite calls within both parties for filibuster reform, the best Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky could do was a "compromise" that falls far short of what is needed.

The rules change passed in separate resolutions with the support of all but 16 senators on the first vote and all but nine on the second vote. Don't be fooled by the broad bipartisan support, however. Those votes were for the status quo. All it will do is allow Republicans to offer amendments during floor debate and speed up consideration of noncontroversial matters.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin was right to dismiss these changes as "baby steps." Indeed, Harkin told reporters after seeing the rules changes that he told President Barack Obama before the election that if he was re-elected and the Senate didn't reform the filibuster rule, "you might as well take a four-year vacation."

Harkin has pushed for a more substantial reform of the filibuster. He would not eliminate the ability of one senator to block action unless 60 votes can be found to proceed. Rather, he has proposed that the number of votes needed to end a filibuster be reduced incrementally until all it takes is a simple majority.

Reid and the Democrats who command a Senate majority could have changed the rule early in the new session with a simple majority of 51 votes. It looked like Reid was headed in that direction, but that may have been a tactic to bring Republicans to the table. In any case, Reid eventually shied away from doing the right thing.

McConnell warned against taking away the rights of the minority to have a voice. That is ironic, because under the rules a single senator can initiate a filibuster, and it takes only 41 votes out of 100 to block a vote to end one. In other words, the minority can and routinely does obstruct action in the Senate, irrespective of which party is in the majority.

The Senate cherishes its traditions, which includes assuring that any senator's voice can be heard. That's a fine tradition, but the Senate has put respect for that privilege ahead of doing the people's business.

Ultimately, the Senate sets its own rules. So whether anything changes is up to members of the Senate. If they take seriously their duty to their constituents and their oath of office, they will put aside the tools of gridlock and move ahead on the people's business.

Otherwise, they should take that four-year vacation Harkin suggested.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
15%
576 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
23%
856 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
27%
1018 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1272 votes

Catch up on the latest in our pregame show every game day.

Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports

ORDER YOURS

Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports