February 16, 2010

Filibuster Buster

By Brady Bonk

It is my opinion that you can’t or shouldn’t just “get rid of” the filibuster in the Senate because the tactic was actually born rather organically in the legislative process and in the larger rules of the Senate, which does not allot time for debate as does the House. Since the rules allow for unlimited debate, of course you’d stand up and talk for as long as you can to drag down legislation you don’t like.

Reform is needed, however. And there are some really good ideas out there about how to do it.

The first notion is the sad news that filibuster reform will not be enacted in this session of the Senate or the next. As The New Republic points out, you’ve got to accomplish it now for a term in the near future, say, 2017. After all, neither party is going to accept filibuster reform while it is the majority party. If you kick that can down the road a little, then we don’t know which side will be on top when the new rules take effect. So don’t look for filibuster reform anytime soon. The only way it will work is if we kick the floe out to sea a little.

The best idea of course is to blow up Senate Rule XXII. Created in 1975, this is the rule that allows a senator to simply announce that he’s filibustering and then he gets to go home and have a nice cup of cocoa. Screw that. Make them stand there and talk and pee in their pants if they want to filibuster. I mean, one reason there’s cloture inflation (see chart) is because there is literally no cost associated with the procedure.

(Of course, the other reason there is cloture inflation is because Republigoats are assholes.)

Tom Harkin has another interesting idea for filibuster reform. Continue to allow a procedural filibuster, but change the rule so that each successive vote requires a smaller threshold for cloture. So your first vote requires 60, but the second only requires 57, then 54, and so on, until you achieve cloture. This would still somewhat protect the minority’s power in the filibuster in that they could still hold up key legislation for a month or so, but the logjam (or lawjam, as some suggest) would eventually be broken.

Good ideas, all. Then again, isn’t our Senate immune to good ideas?

Filed Under: The U.S. Senate