It’s well past time to fix the filibuster.
That was the message sent Monday as nonpartisan nonprofit Common Cause filed suit against the U.S. Senate challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster rules that require routine 60-vote thresholds for bills and nominations to move to the vote stage.
As Politico reports, Several House Democrats and three undocumented students who would benefit from passage of the DREAM Act joined the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia.
Filibuster reformers also got a big boost last week when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) went on the floor to endorse efforts to weaken the filibuster, just a year after his notorious “gentleman’s agreement” with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) to keep filibuster rules in place.
“These bills continually pass the House and get blocked in the Senate,” said Sarah Dufendach, vice president of legislative affairs for Common Cause, which pushed for the DISCLOSE Act. “Their vote is being diluted. Their constituency is being diluted.”
In addition to Common Cause, three DREAM Act students and four House Democrats, Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson, both of Georgia, Michael Michaud of Maine and Keith Ellison of Minnesota were also named as plaintiffs in the suit. The students, who were born outside the U.S. and brought to the country illegally by their parents, claim they were denied a path to citizenship because of the archaic 1975 filibuster rule. During the 2010 lame-duck session, the DREAM Act, backed by President Barack Obama, won passage in the House and attracted a simple majority of 55 votes in the Senate, but fell short of the 60 needed to break a GOP filibuster.
Unfortunately the Senate appears so broken that it’s really come to this– a lawsuit by an outside advocacy group and representatives to get the body to function. The filibuster serves an important role and getting rid of it entirely would be a mistake. But like much in Washington, it assumes lawmakers are operating with good faith in negotiations and legislating and, well, we’ve learned the hard way that just isn’t the case.
Photo from ellrbrown via flickr.