Durbin supports Harkin's filibuster reform effort

Senator Tom Harkin and Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire introduced a resolution yesterday that would change the Senate's rules on filibusters:

the first vote on a cloture motion — which ends a filibuster — would require 60 votes to proceed, the next would be two days later and require 57. This process would repeat itself until the number fell to 51, or a simple majority.

The idea is to restore the filibuster to its original use (delaying passage of a bill) as opposed to its current use by Republicans (to impose a super-majority requirement for every Senate action). The authors of the Constitution never intended to make the Senate unable to act without the consent of 60 percent of its members. But Republicans used the filibuster more times in 2009 than it was used during the entire period from 1949 to 1970.

An unofficial whip count shows Democrats far from having enough votes to change the filibuster rules. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in effect took the issue off the table yesterday.

However, Senator Dick Durbin supports Harkin's filibuster reform efforts. A "senior leadership aide" told Greg Sargent today that Durbin is "in talks with a number of other Democratic senators regarding possible changes to Senate rules."

Let's hope they come up with something that doesn't require 60 votes. The filibuster has killed too many good ideas coming out of the House of Representatives.

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Comments

10 Comments

" The authors of the Constitution never intended to make the Senate unable to act without the consent of 60 percent of its members"

If the intent of the founders is contradicted by this '60' rule, has it ever been contested before the Supreme Court?

by MainStreet 2010-02-12 02:01PM | 0 recs
No

Constitutionally, the senate also can make its own rules.

Constitutionally, it is majority rule in the Senate. But also constitutionally, the senate established the rule as 60 votes for cloutre. Both are consititutional, and neither can be challenged before the supreme court.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-02-12 02:26PM | 0 recs
RE: No

I agree the SC will not take it up as a "seperation of powers" thing. But what is the level at which Senate can make it's own rules? 51? Then why did Reid say 67?

by vecky 2010-02-12 02:58PM | 0 recs
RE: No

At the start of each session (or Congress, I forget which), the Senate votes on adopting its rules for the coming session. That is a majority rule vote. But the Senate rules have long (always?) included a provision that a 2/3 vote is required to change the rules mid-session. So it would take 67 votes to change it now, 51 votes to change it next January when the new Senate adopts its rules.

The so-called nuclear option is where the president of the Senate (Joe Biden) asks the Senate parliamentarian to rule on whether the filibuster is constitutional, the parliamentarian declares it is not, and the Senate then holds a vote to decide if he is right. Since the parliamentarian has said the filibuster is illegal, that vote cannot be filibustered. That would require a lot of "intellectual suppleness" on the part of the parliamentarian, plus 50 Senators (plus Biden) with the balls to vote for it.

Use of the nuclear option is unlikely, and could create even more chaos. There are lots more ways for Republicans to gum up the works. Practically everything requires "unanimous consent", and they would probably object to every jot and tittle of every proceeding, require every bill to be read out in full, force endless quorum calls, etc. etc.

by itsthemedia 2010-02-12 03:39PM | 0 recs
RE: No

Well I guess we could just change everything then! But being typical democrats/liberals I imagine we'll change it just in time for the newly elected GOP majority to run all over the new 49 democratic minority.

by vecky 2010-02-12 04:07PM | 0 recs
RE: Durbin supports Harkin's filibuster reform effort

1949 to 1970? 

Any statistics on the number of times it was used in them modern era? 

Like from 1971 to 2010?

Funny, it seems like just yesterday the Republicans wanted to kill the filibuster to stop Democrats from filibustering Bush's appointments. 

Be careful what you ask for.

by dMarx 2010-02-12 02:37PM | 0 recs
The cynic in me says

that this won't make any difference.  The problem isn't necessarily 60 votes or even Republicans.  The problem is that the Democrats are either afraid, unsure, or just using the filibuster as political cover for 58 of their members.  Of course, the rules will never be changed, because then that would be too obvious.

In general, I think lawmakers are middling, tinkering, and generally conservative (in the sense that they are resistant to change) and they use lofty ideals that could never possibly be enacted to cover up this fact.

by the mollusk 2010-02-12 02:39PM | 1 recs
60% of those present would be better

Long ago, the cloture rules required 67% of Senators present. This was revised in 1975 to 60% of all 100 Senators.

The Harking-Sheehan bill would require 60 votes for cloture the first try, then if it failed would require waiting a few days and then 57 votes, then a few days later 54 votes, and finally, a few days later 51. This would delay votes for too long. 

Instead of this convoluted process, the Senate should change the cloture rules back to require only 60% of those present. To prevent shenanigans, the rule should read "cloture requires 50% of all Senators or 60% of those Senators present, whichever is greater". With this rule, a dedicated minority could hold up the process by maintaining at least 40% of opponents in the Senate chamber around the clock. Otherwise, 50 votes would end cloture.

by RandomNonviolence 2010-02-12 03:10PM | 0 recs
RE: 60% of those present would be better

Hell I agree.

by vecky 2010-02-12 03:16PM | 0 recs
great idea

I wish the Republicans had already done this a few years ago (not that I wanted their consequences then but someone has to change this).

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-02-12 03:18PM | 0 recs

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