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Could The Senate Be Losing The Filibuster? And Should It?

Could The Senate Be Losing The Filibuster?  And Should It?

The student loan debacle is just the latest example of GOP obstructionism, as Republicans filibustered a Democratic bill that would continue to keep rates low.  Congress has become completely unable to pass law unless it has full GOP buy-in, as the party continues to rule by filibuster if all bills aren’t exactly the way they want them.

But should the filibuster be done away with all together?  That’s a question that many disagree over, and that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is currently pondering.

Reid is considering offering to let the GOP vote first on their own version of the student loan bill, which would pay for the interest rate staying low by defunding preventative care in the Affordable Care Act.  In exchange, the Republicans have to promise to not filibuster the Democrats’ version, which would pay for the low rate by closing a tax loophole on S-Corps.

But Reid doesn’t want to stop there.  He’d like to look at reforming the filibuster all together.  Politico reports:

An angry Harry Reid took to the floor Thursday and demanded changes to the Senate’s hallowed filibuster rules, siding with junior Democrats who have sought to substantially weaken the powerful delaying tactic.

It’s a risky move for the Senate majority leader, who could find himself in the minority in a matter of months and need the filibuster to block the GOP’s agenda. But Reid — who struck a “gentleman’s agreement” last year with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to preserve the filibuster from an effort by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeff. Merkley (D-Ore.) to water it down — signaled he is now on board with their effort given the gridlock in the Senate.

“If there were ever a time when Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley were prophetic, it’s tonight,” Reid said on the floor. “These two young, fine senators said it was time to change the rules of the Senate, and we didn’t. They were right. The rest of us were wrong — or most of us, anyway. What a shame.”

Reid added: “If there were anything that ever needed changing in this body, it’s the filibuster rules, because it’s been abused, abused, abused.”

But is weakening the filibuster a good idea?  Yes, there’s a great frustration over the fact that every piece of legislation needs to be supported by at least 60 percent of lawmakers in order to even get a vote.  But on the other hand, do laws that are only supported by 51 senators really represent the will of the people, either?  Especially when the senate is set up to disproportionately represent the country, where low population states like Nebraska and the Dakotas have as much representation as population rich states like California?

Should the filibuster be watered down, or is it a necessary part of democracy?  Tell us in the comments.

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46 comments

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4:35PM PDT on May 14, 2012

The filibuster as it used to be served a good purpose. Now that the tea party has taken over all sanity in the political arena the filibuster has turned into a tool to stop progress on any legislation. Take back the filibuster to what it was designed for, and how it should be used...in the past a live body had to stay on the floor and talk and talk and talk...now the party of "Hell No" only has to do nothing but say "Filibuster."

My opinion is, take the filibuster back to its original purpose, but make a rule that it cannot be changed back by the whims of an ultra partisan party. We must get back to the business of governing for the good of the Country.

12:27PM PDT on May 14, 2012

Paul B.-But this is a new development. No one has ever used the filibuster rules to sabatoge and hamstring government and pretty much every bill brought up in the senate therefore requiring a 60 vote super-majority on everything. Additionally the rules as the now stand don't require a filibuster, it only requires a statement of "intent" to filibuster. We have not seen an actual filibuster in the senate in many years.

4:00AM PDT on May 14, 2012

Two things need to go.......the Republican party for its abuses to the system and the current method of filibuster. The original has to stay as a means to block some truly horrific legislation. But there is a third equally important change. Since money seems to be able to buy all evil, it would probably do no good to demand the Supreme (what a joke) Court have equal members from each party at all times. No court should have been allowed to rule that corporations are people and have a vote. That is plain stupidity. So how to get a Supreme Court that is truly supreme/honest in its intent for the people, escapes me. Suggestions?

3:48AM PDT on May 14, 2012

Wait until Obama gets reelected and the Democrats take back the House and keep the Senate....THEN get rid of the filibuster. If God-forbid the repub wins, we'll NEED TO FILIBUSTER EVERYTHING THEY WANT OR WE'RE DOOMED!

1:06PM PDT on May 13, 2012

It's time to represent all the people equally, this proportionality is not acceptable.

9:41PM PDT on May 12, 2012

The filibuster is an anachronism and should be done away with. Same with the Electoral College. In this "new age" of communication, true democracy would be better served.

7:35PM PDT on May 12, 2012

RepubliCONS, DemoCRAPS, they all use the system. Whoever is in the majority wants to pass their own rules. They all take money. The Koch bothers, George Soros, Wall Street, Hollywood. If you need more than a simple majority vote, you need solid support for a Bill/Law.

6:55PM PDT on May 12, 2012

JasonW.-The filibuster rules are internal Senate rules and can be changed by a simple majority whenever a new session starts. If the Republicans gain a majority and think it would be to their benefit they will change it when the session starts.

6:31PM PDT on May 12, 2012

While the use of the filibuster is frustrating when you support the bill being passed, reducing or eliminating it altogether is a blade with 2 edges. Be careful that you do not cut your own head off when you are trying to cut down the filibuster.

I think it is an essential thing, and needs to be maintained.

5:19PM PDT on May 12, 2012

We already have an institution to balance the inequalties of each state having the same number of Senators. It's called the House of Representatives. To require a super-majority to enact legislation in the Senate would defeat the system of checks and balances written into the Constitution. Let's not go there.

The House of Representatives and Senate were established as separate bodies to balance representation according to population (the House) against the differeing concens between small states and large state, or between agricultural states and industrial/ mercanitle states. The Senate has the same number of representatives for each state so that a large state (like Virginia) could not walk all over the concerns of a small state (like New Hampshire).

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