Senate Dems Seek To Change Filibuster Rules

Some Senate Democrats are looking to modify the rules of the Senate specifically as they apply towards filibusters.  Tired of having the Republicans blocking legislation, some Senate Dems (led by a Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico) are thinking of asking for a change to the rules at the beginning of the new Congress.  The rule change can be approved with a simple 51 vote majority.

Udall is considering four proposals as part of the changes he will offer. One would prevent filibusters to taking up a bill or on a nomination, although it will still allow filibusters to end debate on a bill.  A second would eliminate so-called “secret holds” in which a senator can anonymously stall legislation or a nomination from coming to the floor. A third would require senators to stay on the floor and not leave for any reason during the filibuster.  The fourth proposal from Udall is aimed at diminishing GOP concerns about being locked out of the process as it would require a allow for a certain number of amendments from the minority party for any bill being debated.

Ellis has a nice write up in today’s Argus with regards to statements made by both Thune and Johnson on the subject.  Of course Johnson is for the rule changes as then his party could enjoy more power, where as Thune takes the level headed approach of noting that without any protection at all, there it no reason for the party in power to ever compromise or discuss legislation with the other side.  Johnson must believe his party will always be in control of the Senate otherwise I am not sure how he can think this is a good idea.

For the past few years we have watched as the Democrats have rammed legislation through the Senate.  The Republicans were constantly shut out of any discussions on legislation, while Reid cut off the chance for debate and bypassed the committee process so that legislation could be drafted behind close doors.
I know someone is going to say something like “the republicans did the same thing back when blah blah blah…”.

That is the point.  Do we really want the party in power (regardless of party) to remove or change what may be the one and only  protection left for the other side?  Personally, I don’t like the filibuster being used on a more regular basis.  However, when we see the shenanigans that the Reid has pulled for the past couple of years I am pretty sure we are not looking at fixing the right problem.

26 Replies to “Senate Dems Seek To Change Filibuster Rules”

  1. John

    Mike, I would argue that Sen. Reid had to do stuff like preventing amendments in order to get anything accomplished. Republicans were not legislating in good faith. The amendments they wanted to add to bills were destructive or intended to slow up the process. With the rules as broken as they were, Republicans could waste weeks of their constituents’ time gumming up the works. I wish Reid didn’t have to do it, but the Republicans didn’t give him any choice.

    So you admit to not liking the frequent use of the filibuster, but can’t you see that the process was broken? Bills had to reach a supermajority threshold to even reach the debate stage and then reach another supermajority to actually be voted on. I like that they’re getting rid of the ability to filibuster motions to debate while keeping the main filibuster.

    My favorite part of this filibuster reform is eliminating the need to automatically waste 30 hours of the Senate’s time when someone filibusters. That seemed pretty pointless. Any senator could call for a filibuster and the Senate couldn’t do any work for the next 30 hours. Our taxes at work!

  2. 73*

    Harry Ried should be gone. I will say the TP screwed this one up.

    As big of a supporter of the Tea Party as I am the TP needs to vet their candidates better just like the establishment does. I see the TP supporting candidates like Angle and O’Donnell as wrong as I see establishment groups supporting Charlie Christ or or Lisa Mukowskie.

    Both sides can screw things up.

    1. 73*

      Looks like I butchered Lisa Murkowski’s name so bad my vote wouldn’t have counted on a write in ballot. (Not that I’d have voted for her)

  3. 73*

    It’s amazing to me that a group that gets something as right as Maco Rubio can get something as wrong as Angle and O’Donnell.

  4. Name

    The 4th proposal seems to be the most odd to me. Why would you insist that a bill have multiple amendments on the floor by the minority party? What if the original bill was sponsored by members of the minority party? Would this mean that the majority party would then HAVE to propose amendments before a vote? Seems rather counter-productive; not that any are really that good.

  5. Fahz E. Behr

    I couldn’t agree more Duh… I seem to remember when Republicans were in power that Democrats used the filibuster to try and delay judicial nominations and other things (a la Gang of 14). Back then, the Republicans tried to change the filibuster rule and Democrats were up in arms, saying that the Filibuster should not be changed. Now the Democrats have the majority and think that the Republicans need to stop filibustering. The tables have turned and the Democrats don’t like it… wahh wahh wahh is all the Dems seem to be saying in this argument…

    1. John

      Fahz, the idea that Dems shouldn’t reform the filibuster because if they get in the minority they’ll want to abuse it like the Republicans did is the perfect arguement for why those rules should change. You heard that from some of the older members of the Senate: “Well, what would happen if we’re in the minority and want to do the same things the Republicans are doing now?” But why would they want to abuse the rules too? It sounds crazy to me.

      Even if the Dems had lost the Senate majority, I would still advocate for reforming the filibuster rules because it would still be broken.

      And I don’t think this is happening now just because the Dems lost some power in last year’s election. A lot of liberals have been wanting to reform the filibuster for the last two years because they thought it was being abused and hurting this country’s ability to fix important issues. Rachel Maddow has been talking about this for two years now. So this isn’t something that just started on November 3rd.

      1. MikeH

        Do we need to fix the problem with filibusters? Or fix the problem (like the crap Reid pulls) so that the minority party isn’t completely shut out of all legislative action and left with no other recourse?

  6. Bill Fleming

    “For the past few years we have watched as the Democrats have rammed legislation through the Senate. The Republicans were constantly shut out of any discussions on legislation, while Reid cut off the chance for debate and bypassed the committee process so that legislation could be drafted behind close doors.”

    You’re kidding about this, right? Are you living on the same planet I’m on?

    1. John

      I think both sides are talking past each other, Bill. To conservatives, Congress passed way too much legislation these last two years. To liberals, Republicans successfully obstructed Congress from passing tons of much-need legislation.

  7. Duh

    There is only ONE reason the demos want the filibuster rules changed, so it will benefit them. Look how they handled power while the majority. The Demo’s conduct was the direct combustion which caused the demos to get whacked in the last election. There is no way to can convince any reasonable person that the demos would promote filibuster changes if and soon when they will be in the minority.

    Bill, been gone awhile. However, you apparently still have the same memory problems as shown in your last post. Too bad PP deleted the volumes of previous comments and articles about the conduct of the demos in passing legislation. You could at least read them and jar your brain.

    Rachel Maddow?? RACHEL MADDOW??

  8. Duh

    And your point is? The GOP was merely trying to prevent Dem actions that the vast majority of Americans were against. Frankly, it should have been higher.

    1. John

      What about the times Republicans filibustered bills the vast majority of American supported, like the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (supported by 78% of Americans and 60% of Republicans)? I still say they were abusing the rules.

  9. J Rae

    Chief Justice John Roberts even called the senate out on blocking judicial appointments…so maybe there is some problem there.

    To regain their standing as the world’s most deliberative body, they need to bring deliberation and respectful debate back. I personally would like to see the old school filibuster come back and have the drama or (comedy) of Mr. Smith come back.

    Being able to block a bill without putting you name out in public or ever showing up on the floor needs to change as well..don’t care if it’s TJ or Coburn, no more hiding in the shadows.

    1. TC at AC

      J Rae-
      Bear with me, I’m just playing devil’s advocate for a minute (I actually agree somewhat that bills shouldn’t be able to be anonymously held up), but I have a question regarding the last part of your post.
      Lets say a Senator from a larger state (NY, FL, CA, take your pick) introduces a bill that would hurt smaller states (SD, WY, MT, again, take your pick). Now, the bill is incredibly popular in the bigger state, and the larger state’s Senator went on the news and trumped up said bill. Now, because it is popular in one part of the country, but would hurt another part, shouldn’t a Senator be able to put a hold on the bill? Or should the smaller state be forced to suffer the consequences?
      Just food for thought. I can see some instances where a bill could be held anonymously, but the instances are few and far between.

      1. John

        TC, I don’t think the new rule is getting rid of all holds. Just the “secret holds” that senators could do anonymously. I think senators will still be able to place holds on nominations and bills but they’ll have to do it publicly. The idea is openness and accountability.

  10. oldguy

    I wonder where Tom Dachle stands on this issue? If I think back wasn’t he the 1st to use this all the time? Notbody should be able to hold things up without using his name as that is just plain dumb.