Despite the fact that most reasonable minds agree the Senate, under the current tyranny of the filibuster, is a broken body, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) has said that he will not support filibuster rule changes. Under the current filibuster rule the Senate needs 60 votes to end debate on most items, but only a simple majority to actually pass those items once debate has closed. As a result Republicans effectively killed or substantially delayed most legislation last session, including bills that had majority, but not supermajority support.
The proposed reforms to the filibuster are not that outrageous. Current proposed changes include narrowing the opportunities to wage a filibuster or forcing senators to actually speak during their filibuster attempts.
Nelson’s statements clash with reports that Democrats were united in support of the change. Though given Nelson’s voting record the change of heart (and de facto support for Republican tactics) should come as little surprise. And they may be simply self-serving as Nelson faces re-election and is seen by many as a vulnerable seat, even in conservative Nebraska.
That the Democrats are serious about filibuster reform has at least some Republicans worried. In fact the conservative Heritage Foundation will host an event in defense of the filibuster. Invited to the event are lobbyists who have built an entire career on manipulating the filibuster rules to hold up legislation, going so far as advertising their ability to “delay or obstruct” legislation.
For Nelson and the corporatist intent on keeping the current filibuster rules, a change would mean instilling transparency into efforts to kill bills unpopular with corporate interests. And that alone is reason to support reform.
photo courtesy of Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff via Flickr