Sunday, November 28, 2010

Restoring what the Constitution intended

Back when Jimmy Stewart starred in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington when a senator wanted to filibuster a bill he actually had to commandeer the Senate chamber until the issue was resolved one way or another. Because of that a filibuster was rare.

Now all a senator has to do is say, "I want a filibuster," and the Senate has to go for a cloture (end debate) vote, then wait a prescribed amount of time before the vote on the bill itself takes place. The senator has no skin in the game. Yet, even if he knows the cloture vote will go against him he can slow down Senate business. Because it's so easy practically everything over the last couple years has been tagged with a filibuster. As a result 60% of the senators are needed to get anything done.

Senators in both parties say it is time to go back to majority rule, and the filibuster must require some effort by the senator demanding it. A chance to do that might actually be coming up soon. During the first day of a new Congress the Senate can change the rules of how it operates and that needs only 51 votes.

And it looks like the drive to change the rules isn't to allow the majority to flatten the minority, but to make the Senate more deliberative and to restore the intent of the filibuster rules. And one intent is to put the burden back on the one calling for the filibuster rather than on the majority.

It gets the Senate back to being what the Constitution says it should be. And isn't that what the Tea Party wants?

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