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With Obstruction at An All-Time High, Senate Contemplates Rule Change

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: americans, abuse, congress, corruption, constitution, ethics, government, republicans, usa )

- 1975 days ago -
As the start of the new Congress approaches, Senate Democrats are considering changes to Senate filibuster rule. The filibuster is a controversial procedure where a minority of Senators extend debate indefinitely in order to prevent a vote on, and presu

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JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 12:41 pm
Article from the December 21, 2012 edition of the CHN Human Needs Report:

With Obstruction at an All-Time High, Senate Contemplates Rule Change

As the start of the new Congress approaches, Senate Democrats are considering changes to Senate filibuster rule.

The filibuster is a controversial procedure where a minority of Senators extend debate indefinitely in order to prevent a vote on, and presumably defeat, a piece of legislation they oppose. While the filibuster often evokes images of Senators “talking a bill to death” on the Senate floor, current Senate rules allow Senators to block legislation without leaving their office. In fact, current rules make it possible for Senators to anonymously filibuster.

Even if the required supermajority of 60 Senators vote to end debate, called “invoking cloture,” obstructionists can still force the Senate to wait an additional 30 working-hours before proceeding.

This obstruction has greatly reduced the Senate’s ability to pass legislation. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “In the last three Congresses, the percentage of Senate floor activity devoted to cloture votes has been more than 50 percent greater than any other time since at least World War II.” This worsened the logjam in which the Senate passed only 2.8% of its own bills, a 66% decrease since 2005. Judicial nominees are also caught up in the Senate stall – the vacancy rate for federal judges is 50%, creating 32 “judicial emergencies.” As many pundits have put it, “the Senate is the place where bills go to die.”

Typically, a 2/3 supermajority is required to change Senate rules. However, some Senate Democrats argue that the Constitution allows for a simple majority to amend the rules at the beginning of each session. Accordingly, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has proposed a series of amendments to the filibuster. One proposal would end the filibuster on the motion to proceed (in other words, no more endless debate about whether or not to start debating a piece of legislation). Leader Reid would also require filibustering Senators to actually get up and speak for the duration of the debate.

According to Fix the Senate Now, a coalition of organizations fighting to reform the filibuster, it is unlikely that any Republicans will back the proposed changes. The changes to the filibuster will likely have to come from within the Democratic Caucus, which will hold a 55-45 majority in the 113th Congress.

Sue H (7)
Monday December 24, 2012, 2:52 pm
This really Needs to Get Done. No More Obstruction!

. (0)
Monday December 24, 2012, 3:23 pm
Yep and let's rid the American public of the outdated and outmoded Electoral College. Its time has long since passed. It should be the will and selection by the American people and not a group of pork barrelled senators and insider elites.

JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 3:37 pm
Sure does Sue. You cannot currently send a star to Sue because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Michael because you have done so within the last week.

John B (185)
Monday December 24, 2012, 7:23 pm
Thanks J.L. for the post. Majority leader Sen.Reid has indicated he is favor of a change but how much of a change is anyone's guess. Read and noted.

JL A (281)
Monday December 24, 2012, 8:39 pm
You are welcome John. I guess time will tell how much change Sen. Reid is willing to shepherd in. You cannot currently send a star to John because you have done so within the last week.

Roseann d (178)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 8:50 am
It's about time! Why'd they wait so long? Start strong-arming and pushing bills through like the GOP would.

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 9:06 am
You cannot currently send a star to Roseann because you have done so within the last week.

David C (131)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 10:05 am
55-45 seems like it should be (a) adequate enough to change the filibuster rule and (b) adequate enough to get any legislation, not including a Constitutional Amendment, passed......actually 51-49 should be adequate.....although we don't use the popular vote, we don't require 60%, let alone 2/3, for any offices or other laws except for Amendments to The Constitution....

Mitchell D (87)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 11:23 am
I will remain quietly optimistic about what appear to be needed changes.

Faye Swan (23)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 12:40 pm
I hope they do change the rules there must be a lot of legislation being delayed. Vote it through or not but deal with it.

James Maynard (84)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 1:08 pm
Senator Reid and his caucus need to do more than
contemplate, they need to act on the measures
being discussed.

"Sen." McConnell has proven he can't even be
trusted to honor a "gentleman's" agreement by his
idiotic display the other day of filibustering himself!

Billie C (2)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 1:33 pm
just remember it's a 2 way street. dems have used the same things in the past.

Kathlene L (30)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 1:38 pm
The only thing that Republicans do when in session is obstruct bills. That is what they are all about and they will continue being obstructionists until we have a new President. They are so determined to undermine President Obama that they will sacrifice our country simply to make sure that the President can not succeed.

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 4:05 pm
I agree Dave. You cannot currently send a star to Dave because you have done so within the last week. You describe my hopes well Mitchell. I'm with you on that Faye: You cannot currently send a star to Faye because you have done so within the last week.
Billie, the data indicate the GOP has used it in the last sessions of Congress more than it had EVER before been used--so the fact that others occasionally used it is not a valid argument when the abusive level of use needs addressing since ethical restraints historically effective in preventing abuse did not work with the current GOP Senate group for them to honor their duties and serve the American people rather than corporations and myth-based ideologies. That is the one-way street to disaster that is why the majority of the American people want it addressed.
You are correct Kathy.

Dorothy N (63)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 11:34 pm
If I may bring my coals to Newcastle, lol, this says it SO well:

Opinion: Column
GOP filibuster abuse necessitates reform

By Aaron Loudenslager
Tuesday, December 4, 2012 3:10 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, December 4, 2012 3:24:17 a.m.

The filibuster invokes images of a courageous lawmaker taking the floor of the U.S. Senate and talking for as long as he or she can to delay or block legislation that, in the senator’s view, is a detriment to the American people. Contemporary filibusters rarely require a U.S. senator to actually take the Senate floor and continually talk to block legislation. To ensure the contemporary filibuster remains meaningful, there must be basic filibuster reform.

That the filibuster — a powerful tool of the minority party to express its political dissatisfaction — is being abused in the Senate is nothing new in American history. For this reason, in 1917, the Senate ended the power for the minority party to filibuster indefinitely and created the process of “cloture,” which allows the Senate to end debate by a two-thirds majority vote.

Even with the process of cloture, filibustering was still a very effective tool in blocking legislation. Therefore, the Senate reduced the requirement for invoking cloture from two-thirds to a three-fifths majority vote in 1975.

The modern Republican Party has abused the filibuster to an extent never before seen since the cloture process was implemented in 1917. From 2007 to the present, there have been 283 votes on cloture, including a record 112 votes on cloture during the term of the 110th Congress. Prior to the 100th Congress, the number of votes on cloture in a particular congress never exceeded 61.

In an attempt to reduce the historic number of filibusters led by the Republican Party since 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., intends to reform the filibuster at the beginning of the Senate’s next session — perhaps by exercising the “constitutional option” of changing the Senate’s rules by a simple majority vote. Reid’s reforms would include removing the requirement of 60 votes needed in order to pass “a motion to proceed to legislation” and would also require senators who wish to filibuster to physically come to the Senate floor and talk during the entire filibuster.

U.S. Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., also said she will vote to require filibustering senators to talk on the Senate floor. In a blog on Huffington Post, she wrote, “If someone objects to a bill or a nomination in the United States Senate, they should have to stand on the floor of the chamber and defend their opposition.”

Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have opposed the proposals discussed by Sen. Reid. The Associated Press reported Boehner said Reid’s filibuster reform proposals are “clearly designed to marginalize Senate Republicans and their constituents while greasing the skids for controversial, partisan measures.”

Boehner is unequivocally incorrect. Reid’s proposals are not designed to marginalize the Republican Party in Congress — they are designed to fix a dysfunctional U.S. Senate. The reason for the dysfunction in the U.S. Senate, and indeed all of Congress, is the modern Republican Party.

Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, authors of It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, have studied Congress for more than 40 years and in the past have criticized both political parties as the cause of American political dysfunction. The authors said times have changed though, and they wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, “Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem [political dysfunction] lies with the Republican Party.” They further added, “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

Republicans have no one else but themselves to blame for Sen. Reid’s proposed filibuster reform. If the Republican Party had exercised more discretion and used its filibusters in a limited and rational manner, instead of engaging in a stringent path of political and procedural obstructionism, there would be no need for Reid’s proposed reforms.

Republicans will still have the power to filibuster, but in order to do so they will have to speak on the Senate floor, just like Sen. Huey Long did during the 1930s when he filibustered for 15 hours. If Republicans truly want to filibuster legislation, they must speak on the Senate floor like Jefferson Smith did in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Aaron Loudenslager ( is a first-year law student.

Dorothy N (63)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 11:36 pm
We'll hope that someday this period is spoken of as America's Dark ages - and we'll hope that the Enlightenment comes soon.

David Menard (43)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 6:21 am
Time to change the rules so that the obstructionist GOP can't hold the people all hostage time and time again.

Ro H (0)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 6:24 am

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 7:06 am
Thank you Dorothy for that marvelous article by Aaron Loudenslager--definitely well researched. Unfortunately: You cannot currently send a star to Dorothy because you have done so within the last weekI agree David and Ro.
Perhaps we are seeing too many who do not think rules are supposed to apply to them John?You cannot currently send a star to John because you have done so within the last week.

Carlene V (202)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 7:15 am
@ Billie C - There you go again saying things that you've heard from faux noise, Hannity,Limbaugh, Coulter, et al.
Democrats have filibustered Billie but they have done it in the correct way. The thugs in the Republican party are using it to stop President Obama from getting anything through. If the rules change they will have to get up off their chairs and speak, not just sit there saying they are filibustering. They have done nothing to the advancement of our country but instead hold us all hostage at every turn just to stop Obama. Racism is behind many of their deeds but they'll never own up to that, they are too cowardly and too busy being whores for corporate pimps and it needs to stop.

Lois Jordan (63)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 4:23 pm
Reid's had this opportunity on the very 1st day of the new Senate for a number of years and has chosen not to use it. Although this year I've seen him speaking often and strongly about it, I'm still not sure what his decision will be...mostly because this negotiations are done privately. Something definitely must change because our system isn't functioning. I hope he has the guts.

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 8:22 pm
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