Friday, November 22, 2013

Filibuster Reform: A Centrist View

The filibuster rules were changed in the U.S. Senate yesterday to end the egregious obstructions by the minority.  I am glad that executive appointments can now be voted on, and that some governing will actually happen.

However, I think this is the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

The real problem occurred when the meaning of 'filibuster' was changed.  A real filibuster involves standing up and talking about why you oppose a nominee or bill.  You may be standing and talking for a long time.  You have to hold up all other Senate business to carry on with your filibuster.  This means that you need quite a bit of support from the other senators, or you will lose a cloture vote.

A few years ago, in a foolish bipartisan measure, the Senate rules were changed to allow the mere threat of a filibuster to be enough to block a nomination or a bill.  This is the mistake that should be corrected. 

If the current relatively minor rule change is the 'nuclear option,' then the previous rule change was the tsunami that washed away all meaning to the filibuster rule.

Let's go back to real filibusters if you want to stop the Senate.