Moving Forward With Filibuster Reform

After watching Senate Republicans block widely popular legislation like the DREAM Act and judicial nominations such as Edwin Liu, a group of Senate Democrats signaled plans to move forward with filibuster reform.  Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) said he intended to call for limits on the filibuster that would actually require senators be on the floor if they plan to hold up legislation.

Republicans have employed the filibuster, and other procedural impediments such as a blind-hold to tie up most of the legislative efforts in the Senate.  The rules that govern these tactics are not grounded in the Constitution but rather chamber rules, meaning that they can be amended within the body by a simple majority vote.

The plan, at least as it is understood right now, would have Senate Democrats place the body in recess at the conclusion of Wednesday’s proceedings.  This would give time for additional bipartisan reform efforts to move forward but ultimately allow Democrats the ability to bring procedural reform on their own should those talks break down.

During that interim period Senators Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Charles Schumer and Lamar Alexander could craft a compromise that would prevent a showdown on the Senate floor.  But if no deal is reached then lawmakers plan to force a debate which some have warned will fracture already strained relations in the Senate and further clog up President Obama’s legislative goals.

The filibuster is a powerful tool and one that should be used sparingly.  But over the past two years Republicans have repeatedly abused the procedure for short-term political gain.  That is not governing.  It is campaigning. 

It’s long past time to reform the rules and the current proposal is a good start.  Should the minority chose to take the entire body hostage then so be it–but then make them do so in daylight and in front of the American people rather than through backchannel threats.  It should not take a supermajority to pass legislation supported by the American public, and here’s hoping that 2011 is the year the filibuster threat dies.

photo courtesy of cliff1066 via Flickr


Dan R.
Dan R7 years ago

Filibustering is about minority rule. Debate should be limited to new thoughts about the subject at hand. 55% or less should be enough to close debates. But I don't expect any real change to be made because unjust wealth can always buy unjust political power and the division of wealth is very unjust today.

Joan D.
Joan D7 years ago

The DREAM ACT was a very unpopular piece of legislation, not a popular one. Now that Democrats are the minority, they want the filibuster changed, but not when it was to their advantage. Please!

Jayna W.
Jayna W7 years ago

I hope the democrats remember that this is a sword which cuts both ways. When one empowers others, one empowers himself. When one dis-empowers others, one dis-empowers himself.

Ronald Ellsworth
Ronald E7 years ago

A lot of the stuff going on in Congress is pure insanity! How could they be oblivious enough to let these rules even be proposed in the first place, let alone garner enough votes to pass them. Absolute stupidity is the norm for those that serve the ruling class.

Gloria C.
gloria c7 years ago

yeah let's talk about congress and the senate. just exactly what are they doing and why. being in the catbird seat should cost a little. life shouldn't be one long continuous hot fudge sundae.are the techniques employed by the groups actually beneficial to running the country or are they in fact detrimental?

John B.
John B7 years ago

The filibuster has it purpose and when it is used as such it is perfectly all right. It has been used recently as a campaigning tool and the fact that it has been allowed to be used as such shows that no one has respect for the Constitution by those who have sworn to uphold it.

Joan Earnshaw
Joan Earnshaw7 years ago

It's about time that there was a lid put on the use of the filibuster. Those Republicans use it like a spoiled child uses a tantrum. Grow up!

John A.
Past Member 7 years ago

Thank you!

Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart7 years ago

This article falls short. Everyone needs to be fully informed about just what these reforms entail. The information IS publicly available, but not everyone expressing an opinion is up to speed on what they are. Without basic understanding of what the individual elements of "reform" being proposed are, ANY reaction, pro or con, can be called "knee-jerk".
The reforms that are being considered do not eliminate the fillibuster, but are simply common-sense rules that would preserve the rights of the party in the minority to have their say, but minimalize the abuse of those rights.
There should be no need for compromise or "quid pro quo" to get this done. To do so is a sell-out.
Each rule should be voted on publicly, based on its own merits, before the Senate takes up ANY other business, and before the Senators draw their first pay check. Sort of like agreeing to the terms of a job offer before being put on the payroll.
Unfortunately, based on the behaviour of the Senate we have witnessed to date, we can't afford to trust them with back-room compromises on such a fundamental task.

Michael M.

"Things couldn't get any worse with Republicans in charge! Are you among the 1% of the richest in this country? If you aren't have your head checked for injuries."

Elsy S. best comment of the day by far