Wednesday, November 14, 2012

End filibusters in the senate

Carl Levin, the senior United States Senator from Michigan, is calling for changes in the United States Senate filibuster rules.  The change is so overdue. Let’s hope he finds enough support come January to change the rules.  But, in an irony of circumstances, a minority can prevent it from happening

Right now, the senate’s filibuster rules aren’t even what are historically known as a filibuster.  In the past, a senator would stand and talk for as long as he could to prevent a vote on a piece of legislation from coming up.  Other senators that may have agreed with him would take some floor time and allow the originator of the filibuster to rest.  These maneuvers around the rules were done to give a brief pause before voting on legislation.  This would allow each side to get support for their point of view or change someone’s mind before voting.  Other times, it was intended to get the attention of the public.  But, after a day or two, debate would be cut off and a vote taken.  Currently, the House of Representative’s operates under the rules that a simple majority vote can cut off debate and move to a vote.      
But, the senate’s rules are much different.  It only takes a minority of senators to put a stop to any legislation.  (Although, the house and the president have found ways around the filibusters, it isn’t the way things are intended to work.)  If just 40 senators ban together they can prevent debate on the legislation from being cut off and a keep the full senate from voting.  Then, nothing happens.  Senators don’t get up to talk so senators are not under any pressure to get support or change someone’s mind.  They just stall the current legislation and move on to other business. 

That means that a minority in the Senate can effectively kill legislation.  And, if those 40 senators are from low population states, a small minority of the population can keep an up or down vote on any issue. 
The Constitution does say that the house and the senate are allowed to make its own rules.  So, at the start of each session, every two years, each body votes on the rules for the upcoming session.  This January when a new session of congress comes to town, new rules will be considered.  This provides an opportunity to get the rules changed on filibusters. 

The authors of the Constitution never intended the Senate to make rules that allow a minority to rule.  With few exceptions, those times when a two thirds majority is required, voting is based on a simple majority.  Even then, it is expected that a vote would be taken in a timely fashion. 
For good or bad, depending on your point of view, the winners of any election and the party with the majority of seats get to pass the legislation they want.  This is the way a representative democracy works.  To allow a minority to prevent legislation to come up for a vote is to ignore the will of the voters.


  1. Why no mention of the Senate majority leader singlehandedly blocking legislation passed in the House?

    The filibuster rule is just fine the way it is. But dimocrats want full control of everything. Forget it. Either you are a left wing sheeple or you are not very bright.

    The rules will not change.

  2. Al
    Thank you for your rational response instead of relying on name calling and insults to my blog post about the filibuster in the senate.
    First, you take me to task for not writing about the Senate majority leader “singlehandedly” blocking legislation in the House. That was not the subject of the blog. It was the filibuster in the Senate. The current filibuster rules are an invention of the Republicans when they were attempting to block judicial appointments by then President Clinton. Apart from any Constitutional issues that may be involved, it is against the majority will of the people to have a minority of voters block legislation.
    As for your next point, yes, the Democrats want full control. So do the Republicans. That is the way the system works, the two parties competing against each other. It is a political system that takes form from the capitalistic model. It is a system that I support. As demonstrated by my post on Carl Rove a few days ago. While I disagree with much of what he says, I do support his right to compete.
    Now, for your two statements you made about me being a “left wing sheeple” or someone who is not very bright. If I was a left wing sheeple, I would have called for the same filibuster rules in the house as in the senate. The right has control of that house. If I was only supporting the left wing, I would have supported rules that allow the minority in the house to stop legislation. But, I didn’t. In the future, I will maintain my position on the current filibuster rules, regardless of the party in control.
    Finally, you commented that I wasn’t very bright. I have logical support for my position. I stuck to the subject, referenced its historical background and was in support of the fact that the Constitution does say the senate can set their rules. So, the senate does have the right to make the rules they conduct themselves under, I just disagree with them.