Filibuster Reform: Is The Time Right?
Kevin Drum agrees with Duncan Black that it’s fine for Republicans to oppose Barack Obama and the Democrats. He adds, though, that “The filibuster was never intended to become a routine requirement that all legislation needs 60% of the vote in the Senate to pass. But that’s what it’s become. It’s time for reform.”
I’m not sure where those four were on the issue when the Republican majority was pushing towards the so-called “nuclear option” when Democrats were blocking votes on President Bush’s judicial appointees. But, seeing as how I was in favor of the idea then and no intervening facts other than the inconvenience for my political preferences have changed, I think they’re right. And, as Matt notes, the problem has gotten progressively worse since the Republicans took over the minority status.
I don’t now — nor did I then — oppose the filibuster absolutely. I agree with Donald Douglas that it’s a valuable check on majority tyranny. But it shouldn’t be nearly so routine as it’s become in recent years. Benen suggests:
Maybe the number can be lowered from 60. Perhaps there can be some kind of limit on the number of filibusters (kind of like NFL coaches having a limit on how many times they can challenge a referee’s call on the field). Maybe senators can be forced to actually filibuster bills, the way they used to before it became easy. Of course, the chamber can also scrap the filibuster altogether.
The NFL Challenge-style option is relatively novel but actually strikes me as a good solution. (Perhaps if they successfully challenge two bills, they get a third!) And, certainly, I like the idea of forcing real filibusters. But something other than the present system of unlimited veto power of the minority party makes sense.
And this is a good time to push for such a move. The Republicans have had the shoe on the other foot within very recent memory, so they may be more amenable to the idea than usual for a minority party. And the Democrats have been in the minority recently enough that they should be amenable to something less than ending the filibuster outright.
UPDATE: As numerous commenters point out, the numbers are subject to gaming. So, an increase in filibusters may reflect some combination of more willingness to use the practice on ordinary bills and parliamentary maneuvering to make filibustering more necessary. An NFL Challenge system wouldn’t work, then.
I should note, too, that I have no objection to the implied Republican filibuster of the stimulus bill which required the Democrats to therefore put together 60 votes. Something that massive and controversial is precisely the sort of thing for which 50 percent plus 1 shouldn’t be enough.