Friday, January 22, 2010

When All Else Fails, Change the Rules

The mere fact that the Senate is considering this kind of rule change is laughable. The fact that Joe Lieberman is co-sponsoring is troubling, but predictable.
Filibuster reform headed for Senate floor; measure faces uphill battle

By J. Taylor Rushing
01/22/10 06:00 AM ET


Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) intends in the next few weeks to introduce legislation that would take away the minority’s power to filibuster legislation.

Harkin has wanted to change the filibuster for years, but his move would come in the wake of Republican Scott Brown’s dramatic victory in Massachusetts. Brown’s victory cost Democrats their 60th vote in the Senate, and may have dealt a death blow to their hopes to move a massive healthcare overhaul. It could also limit President Barack Obama’s ability to move other pieces of his agenda forward.

Harkin’s bill would still allow senators to delay legislation, but ultimately would give the majority the power to move past a filibuster with a simple majority vote.

“In light of the fact that it takes 67 votes to change the Senate rules, it does not look likely that a rule change would happen anytime soon,” said a senior aide.

The aide noted the rancorous debate in 2005, when Republicans controlled the Senate and considered changing filibuster rules during a fight over judicial nominees. The so-called “nuclear option” was eventually dismissed.

Under Harkin's bill, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), 60 votes would still be necessary to cut off debate on an initial procedural motion. If senators failed to reach 60 votes, a second vote would be possible two days later that would require only 57 votes to cut off debate. If that also failed, a third vote two days after that would require 54 votes to end debate. A fourth vote after two more days would require just 51 votes.
The Senate rules are designed to slow down debate and fully deliberate on an issue. The Founders intention in the Senate's design was to inhibit dramatic legislative changes based on a current political trend. It seems like that pertains to today.

I stick to my wish for 2010.

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