A large group of Democratic senators, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, wants to reform the filibuster process on January 5, the first day of the new Congress — when, according to precedent, the incoming Senate majority can alter the rules by a simple majority vote without fear of the process itself being filibustered. Although Reid's exact plans are unknown, the changes would reportedly require legislators to be speaking on the Senate floor in order to block a proposed bill (see Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). Will this work, and is it constitutional for Democrats to even be trying?
Now is the time to reform the filibuster: "This is the perfect time for reform," says Michael Waldman at Bloomberg. The filibuster was originally drafted as a genteel check on the balance of power, but has become a tool to "cripple the executive branch." Thanks to Republican filibustering, 150 judicial nominees are in "Kafkaesque limbo," and Congress has been at a "halt" for much of the past year. Requiring 60 votes for anything to get done "isn’t what America’s founders had in mind."
"Washington dysfunction's cure is in sight."
Dems are just rigging the system in their favor: This is "nothing more than a naked power grab by the left," says Brian Darling at Red State, to "establish complete control over the agenda" of the Senate. What's more, the means of doing it — using a "simple majority vote" on the first day of Congress — are entirely unconstitutional. Liberals are twisting "Supreme Court precedent, the Constitution and the explicit rules of the Senate" to get their own way.
"How liberals plan to destroy the Senate with 51 votes"
Democrats will need the filibuster, too: Leaving aside the "sheer hypocrisy" of these suggestions for reform, says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post, might the Democrats not need the filibuster themselves during the next Congress? After all, the Republican minority will only need a handful of "moderate Democratic senators" to bolster its 47-member caucus and force its own agenda through. Reid et al. would be "well advised to do some serious thinking about the unintended consequences of their desire to give the Senate majority more power."
"Won't liberals need the filibuster?"
Both parties should support this: It wasn't that long ago Republicans sought to reform the filibuster, says an editorial in the Los Angeles Times, and they should be in support of eliminating the current "anti-democratic" practice. "Abuses of the filibuster" have contributed to Congress' approval rating dropping to a historic low. "The chamber has a chance to save itself from itself on Jan. 5, and it should take it."
"On Jan 5, the Senate has the chance to change the rules on filibusters and secret holds; it should take it."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why Mitt Romney is perfectly poised for a comeback in 2016
- 10 things you need to know today: August 1, 2014
- 8 secrets to steal from power networkers
- How Ronald Reagan turned America into a nation of children
- How to make classic pulled pork
- The Nazi smart bomb that inspired China's most dangerous weapon
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why is the West so afraid of Islam?
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
Subscribe to the Week