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Filibuster Reform Needed In U.S. Senate, But Caution Must Be Given To Cure

November 19, 2012

If you follow politics you are fully aware the divisive, obstructive, self-serving, and vindictive antics that take place in Washington, D.C. are undermining the ability of our institutions to function.  The main source of this problem is not in the White House.  The main problem lies in the United States Senate.  It is also something that most Americans have most likely never heard of.

It is Senate Rule XXII, the filibuster rule.  It is working against the will of the people who elect senators, and creates a procedural hurdle that makes it harder for meaningful, and needed legislation to pass.

In short, what it allows is for only 41 senators to completely bring the business of the nation to a halt.  The majority of the body may be settled on a bill or nominee, and know that something has to be done, but 41 senators can block the path forward.  To achieve madness all these 41 members need do is not vote for cloture, which is the vote taken to shut down the promise of endless debate.  In other words the other 59 senators–the majority–are left swinging in the wind.

This is no way for America’s political process to act, and it must end.

Filibuster reform is not a new gripe, and in fact it should not even be considered partisan as it deals with the process of government .  It just is a logical need that will allow our government to work more robustly and completely for the people who elected the members to office.

Over the past four years I ask my readers to look at just one area where the Senate Republicans used the filibuster gridlock mechanism to block the president’s court nominees.  One does not need to search hard to locate the numerous cases where talented, uncontroversial, and fine examples of judicial nominees were never acted on–though there was majority support–because 41 Republicans wanted to slow down, stall, blockade, and ultimately blow-up the process.

The numbers speak for themselves.   At this point in their first terms, Bill Clinton and George Bush (43)  had, respectively, 195 and  197 nominees confirmed to the federal bench, while Obama has had just 154 confirmed.

No one who has ever had a civics course, and passed it, can be proud of such results as that which we have witnessed due to Senate Rule XXII.

There must be a way around this mess, and to be honest I am not sure there is a good path to choose, but I know one must be found.

I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to the process of government, and as such am not gleeful over the attempt Majority Leader Reid indicates he might use when it comes to filibuster reform.    Using what is called the “constitutional option”, which states the Senate can, on the first day of a session, change its rules by a majority vote.  But that very well can lead to mischief by the other side once they regain the majority.

I do not want the majority to control the rules of the body (regardless of which side has the majority), but I also know that the partisan plays from the Republicans have brought this nation to legislative gridlock through their abuse of the filibuster rule.

If we had more sensible moderates from both parties that could meet in the middle and seek out what is best for the nation there would not be folks like me blogging about the need for filibuster reform.

Where are the political states-people of the senate?  Who are the ones who care more about the senate than partisanship?

If they are there it is time they rose and addressed the nation.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2012 10:27 AM

    The gridlock in the Senate from the way the filibuster rule is used is preventing the nation’s work from being done. I think you are old enough—I am too—to know what a real filibuster means, and the way it once was used. That is not the case anymore–it is now leveraged to stop everything—nominees to bills. Process matters, and that is something I often write about on CP, and this is one time I am hoping that the system can work, the cure will not be worse than the problem, and the nation can see issues resolved. But it is the GOP that has created this mess and now the nation has to find a way around it.

  2. November 21, 2012 4:55 AM

    I still don’t get it. Misuse of filibuster by GOP is reason for changing it? That sounds similar to re-designing streets and stop lights because of jay walkers.
    Leave the filibuster alone and focus on fixing the country. Alas, why should we expect the two political parties that got us into this mess to get us out?

  3. November 20, 2012 8:30 PM

    The Senate’s historic protection of the minority’s right to speak and amend would cease if the majority ruled every time it had the power. The difference between how the House operates and the Senate at present is what I mean. Since two-thirds of the Senate is a continuing body each session, and the rule book it uses was written in 1789 by the first Senate, it keeps a code of not adopting rules on the first day of a new Congress. The House does. While I want filibuster reform, and the nation needs it I want it done carefully, and thoughtfully. The fact of how the GOP has mis-used the filibuster is proof reform is needed.

  4. November 20, 2012 8:03 PM

    I have no idea what you are talking about ” I do not want the majority to control the rules of the body…”
    If you continue to support a two-party system, you have no choice but to do exactly that.
    And…if this has served us well for over two hundred years, why do we need to change it now? Just because you don’t like the outcome? The executive branch and the ruling party already have too much power. Don’t take away any more balance. While you may see the glass as half empty , I see a minority as a glass half full. 154 justices confirmed? Good enough for me…


  1. Damn the Filibuster…or Not « GoodOleWoody's Blog and Website

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