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Filibuster Reigns

January 28, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

For the past four years, Republicans have used the Senate rules to delay all action, even on the most mundane of matters, to an extent far beyond what has ever been seen before. Still, the Democrats made it clear yesterday that they don’t have the willpower to reform the rules so they can maybe actually get some stuff done this session. Some members of the Democratic caucus, mostly junior members, have been advocating for reforming the filibuster rules to at least bring some integrity back to the process by requiring senators who want to block stuff to actually stand up and block it. Instead, the Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV], chose to keep the silent filibuster alive and pass only a couple minor changes to inconsequential rules.

The junior members had been advocating for using the majority’s constitutional right to set their own rules for the chamber by a simple majority vote. Rather than using that approach, Reid yesterday brought up series of reforms under the normal rules reform procedure knowing that all but the mildest of proposals would be rejected. Senatus runs down the action:

  • A resolution offered by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Susan Collins (R-ME) was adopted by a vote of 92-4. It was subject to a 60-vote threshold. It would force “all holds to be disclosed to the public after one day, eliminating the ability of one senator to hijack the legislative process without being held accountable,” according to a press release.
  • A resolution offered by Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) was adopted by a vote of 81-15. It was subject to a 60-vote threshold. According to a press release, it would “end the ability for a Senator to delay a vote by requiring a forced reading, out loud, of an amendment if the text is made available 72 hours in advance.”
  • A resolution offered by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) was defeated by a vote of 12-84. It was subject to a 67-vote threshold. According to a press release, this resolution would “permit a decreasing majority of Senators to invoke cloture.” It also guarantees “both parties amendments after cloture has been invoked.”
  • A resolution offered by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) was defeated by a vote of 44-51. It was subject to a 67-vote threshold. According to a press release, the resolution would provide for several reforms: (1) eliminate the filibuster on motions to proceed, (2) eliminate secret holds, (3) guarantee consideration of amendments for majority and minority, (4) implement a “talking” filibuster and (5) expedite post-cloture time on nominations.
  • A resolution offered by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) was defeated by a vote of 46-49. It was subject to a 67-vote threshold. The focus of this resolution was to implement a “talking” filibuster. A press release for a more comprehensive reform package notes that this idea would mean “Senators opposed to proceeding to final passage will be required to continue debate as long as the subject of the cloture vote or an amendment, motion, point of order, or other related matter is the pending business.”

So that’s it. No more anonymous holds — though holds blocking bills by a single member are still okay — and no more forced readings of legislation as a dilatory tactic. Oh, and, this was accompanied by a gentlemen’s agreement that Republicans would filibuster less in exchange for the Democrats allowing more votes on amendments.

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Comments

  • davidresseguie 01/28/2011 7:31am

    Tugboats moving the Queen Mary. Though I realize that not getting comprehensive filibuster reform again postpones the day when the majority rules, even these small steps are part of the process. Maybe the start of the 2012 session will bring a few more baby steps.

  • KyleAbbott 01/28/2011 10:37am

    Once again, the intent of the Founders is preserved! The 60 vote rule is to prevent one-party rule, which is damaging, no matter which party is in power. I wonder if this would be supported so enthusiastically if the GOP wanted rules reform…

  • luminous 01/28/2011 10:50am

    This has nothing to do with the intent of the founders, the filibuster was invented in 1789 itself a change in the rules from the original intent of the founders. And even then after this rule change the filibuster was not used until 1837.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filibuster_in_the_United_States_Senate

  • Comm_reply
    mouseissue 01/30/2011 11:37am

    The “Filibuster” was instituted into the rules by our founding fathers in 1789 when they realized that a “slight” majority legislators could pass a law that a “clear” majority of the people might not want.

    If a legislator felt that a proposed piece of legislation did not have insufficient debate for an informed vote, filibuster could be used to stop a vote until such debate was held.

    Interestingly, it is true that was not used until 1837.
    However, not unlike most rules, it has been extensively abused by BOTH parties ever since.

  • yoder 01/29/2011 12:50pm

    The GOP’s use of the filibuster is a perversion of its original purpose.

  • Comm_reply
    mouseissue 01/30/2011 12:13pm

    And when the Democrats use it, it’s not a perversion of it’s original purpose?

    I think it’s time you take a more honest look at your political compatriots.
    You “Progressives” are too obvious!

  • Comm_reply
    yoder 01/30/2011 3:16pm

    If you looked closely at how the filibuster has been used by each party over the past 10 years, you would see that the®‘s have indeed abused the tool. Can you provide any information showing the same for the (D)’s?

  • Comm_reply
    mouseissue 02/01/2011 9:07am

    Yoder,

    Congress and the filibuster have been around a LOT longer than 10 years.

    Looking at how the filibuster has been used by both parties going back since 1837, both parties have used and abused it extensively.

    GROW UP MAN!!! Have you ever heard the adage; “All’s fair in love, war and politics.”?

    If you don’t believe that partisan politics (from BOTH sides) has not been around since AT LEAST 1837, you need to reread your US history.
    It appears you’ve missed most it.

    Having blind hindsight (or selective memory) is a political hack’s trait.
    Be careful, one day the truth may sneak up on you and smack you on the back of your head!

  • yoder 01/30/2011 3:22pm

    “Well, if the®‘s are doing this bad thing, then the (D)’s must do it as well.”

    This is not a valid argument.

  • Comm_reply
    mouseissue 02/01/2011 9:09am

    Yoder,

    You say:
    ""Well, if the®‘s are doing this bad thing, then the (D)’s must do it as well."
    This is not a valid argument."

    This is NOT my argument!!!
    You need to REREAD my post as well as US History.
    Again, you’ve missed the boat!

  • davidcjackman 01/30/2011 8:31pm

    Could someone please explain what the following means?: “Reid yesterday brought up series of reforms under the normal rules reform procedure”

    I take it to mean Senator Reid changed what type of voting majority – from a simple majority to a 3/5 or 2/3 vote – was needed to adopt a new Senate rule. Is this is correct, what gives him the power to do so? Is it that he is the Senate majority leader? Thanks for the clarification.

  • Comm_reply
    MFLS 01/31/2011 11:00am

    From Wikipedia:

    “The filibuster is a tactic used to defeat bills and motions by prolonging debate indefinitely. A filibuster may entail long speeches, dilatory motions, and an extensive series of proposed amendments. The Senate may end a filibuster by invoking cloture. In most cases, cloture requires the support of three-fifths of the Senate; however, if the matter before the Senate involves changing the rules of the body—this includes amending provisions regarding the filibuster—a two-thirds majority is required.”

    The part of interest to you is the the portion following the semi-colon in the second sentence. It’s a rule of the Senate so it has to be followed, regardless of who is in charge.

  • Comm_reply
    davidcjackman 02/01/2011 4:33am

    Ahh, Ok! Thanks for the clarification! I think that Sen. Harry Reid is acting as a political chess-player more than moving towards anything regarding actual reform. He is definitely mara concerned over losing the majority in the Senate after 2012 elections, so minimizing any resulting loss in power would seem to take and fin+Rr(x) and xprecedence over legislation that would help make the(3/5 legislative process more smooth take precedence over th so, T

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  • pauljohn300 12/11/2012 1:52pm

    This was accompanied by a gentlemen’s agreement that Republicans would filibuster less in exchange for the Democrats allowing more votes on amendments Leeb .

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