Harkin may introduce bill to end filibuster

The Burlington (IA) Hawk Eye reports that Senator Tom Harkin may reintroduce a bill to end the filibuster:

Nearly 15 years ago, the Iowa senator first introduced legislation that would end the Senate rule of filibuster, or endlessly debating a bill until its ultimate demise. The bill ultimately failed to pass the Senate by a vote of 76-19.

Given what he sees as the abuse of power by a couple members of his own party whom he said are threatening to join the minority party if their every demand is not met, Harkin is considering reintroducing the legislation.

"I think, if anything, this health care debate is showing the dangers of unlimited filibuster," Harkin said Thursday during a conference call with reporters. "I think there's a reason for slowing things down ... and getting the public aware of what's happening and maybe even to change public sentiment, but not to just absolutely stop something."

Harkin noted with interest that his original legislation was cosponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who has been threatening to filibuster the legislation.

Harkin's idea would preserve means for senators to slow down debate on a bill without imposing a 60-vote threshold for all bills in the Senate:

"Today, in the age of instant news and Internet and rapid travel -- you can get from anywhere to here within a day or a few hours -- the initial reasons for the filibuster kind of fall by the wayside, and now it's got into an abusive situation," Harkin said.

He and the constitutional scholars agree that the intention was never to hold up legislation entirely.

To keep the spirit of slowing down legislation, though, Harkin's proposal back in 1995 would have kept the 60-vote rule for the first vote but lessening the number required in subsequent votes.

He said for instance if 60 senators could not agree to end debate, it would carry on for another week or so and then the number of votes required to end debate would drop by three. Harkin said it would carry on this way until it reached a simple majority of 51 votes.

"You could hold something up for maybe a month, but then, finally you'd come down to 51 votes and a majority would be able to pass," Harkin said. "I may revive that. I pushed it very hard at one time and then things kind of got a little better."

This approach makes a lot of sense, although it will be an uphill battle to get a critical mass of senators to agree to change the rules.

Not long ago Ezra Klein publicized a memo from December 1964, which suggests that the recent election improved chances for Medicare to pass the Senate (by approximately 55 to 45). There was no expectation that Medicare couldn't pass without a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

One way or another, the current abuse of the filibuster in the Senate needs to end. The Constitution does not contain any supermajority requirement for ordinary legislation to pass the Senate.

Tags: Congress, health care reform, Joe Lieberman, Senate, Tom Harkin (all tags)

Comments

15 Comments

We have to end it

That is the only way we can get anything done.  

by Kent 2009-12-12 02:33PM | 0 recs
Re: We have to end it

Why is this troll-rated?

by mikeinsf 2009-12-13 02:17AM | 0 recs
Because he's a troll

by ND22 2009-12-13 05:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Because he's a troll

Ha!

by lojasmo 2009-12-13 08:40AM | 0 recs
Re: We have to end it

We've done plenty so far, as you have been REPEATEDLY shown.

The nice thing is that If I were to copy the list here you'd disappear.

The truth is sort of like raid for internet trolls.

by lojasmo 2009-12-13 08:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Harkin may introduce bill to end filibuster

Does he have 60 votes?

It's ironic that a bill to end the filibuster would itself be killed by filibuster.

by vecky 2009-12-12 02:40PM | 0 recs
I doubt he does now

If he's thinking about making another serious push for this, there must be other senators who would work with him, though.

The conservadems will never go along, because the filibuster increases their power. The question is whether some Repubs would try, feeling confident that someday in the not too distant future they'll be in the majority again.

by desmoinesdem 2009-12-12 04:00PM | 0 recs
Re: I doubt he does now

I don't think it matters to much to Republicans. They can always just pass tax cuts for the wealthy via reconciliation, which is all they ever want to do.

by vecky 2009-12-12 05:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Harkin may introduce bill to end filibuster

I hope Lieberman et al., will be happy when their actions cause a bunch of weak seats to go into the hands of Republicans.

They should be stripped of their chairmanships and completely defunded.

by agpc 2009-12-12 04:12PM | 0 recs
Lieberman probably will be happy

because he'll have more power if there's only a slim D majority.

When the Rs take over after a few cycles, he'll just switch parties--if he survives his own re-election in 2012.

by desmoinesdem 2009-12-12 04:24PM | 0 recs
That's Lieberman's plan

I think he also wants his chairmanship stripped so he can play the victim card.

by ND22 2009-12-12 08:55PM | 0 recs
Re: That's Lieberman's plan

Well, it's not like he's done anything with his chairmanship.

Wait... they are investigating gate-crashers-gate!

by vecky 2009-12-12 10:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Harkin may introduce bill to end filibuster

This is obviously kind of a doomed effort given the number of Democrats who worship the traditions of the Senate above all else, the centrist attention whores like Lieberman whose only bargaining chip consists of threatening to filibuster stuff, and of course the 100% guaranteed opposition from Republicans.  It's worth noting that 100% of the Republicans were against Harkin's legislation back in 1995, even though they were in the majority at the time!

That said, you can't build momentum for something like this if you don't start.  It's also worth remembering that at the start of a new Congress, you only need 50 votes to change the rules, even without resorting to the so-called nuclear option.  As a long-term effort, I dunno, maybe someday if we keep harping on this.

by Steve M 2009-12-12 05:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Harkin may introduce bill to end filibuster

The point is, centrist democrats do have power anyway, but they power as a block. On a good day, there are only about 30 liberal senators. Even on the HC issue there are only about 44 senators willing for a liberal-robust PO.

The moderate conservatives - all 20 of them, can just as easily have blocked a heavily liberal bill from reaching 50. A bill with 51 votes would not be a liberal bill, but a moderate compromise position.

However with the bar set at 60, individual senators have power to get whatever they want. That's not parliamentarian, it's feudal.

by vecky 2009-12-12 06:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Harkin may introduce bill to end filibuster

This is major.  What we need to do about climate change alone justifies it's passage.  It will end Republican obstructionism, and hasten the end of the Republican Party as we know it.  We can fight a thousand battles that lead to compromised bills , or fight this one and cruise through a thousand victories.

by Georgeo57 2009-12-13 06:26PM | 0 recs

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