More Silliness on Filibuster Reform

More tortured logic on the issue of the filibuster.

Earlier this week, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) gave a speech in opposition to filibuster reform at the Heritage Foundation (video here).  One of the things he said struck me as yet another example (to go along with the Mitch McConnell statement I posted about earlier today) of rank silliness, if not utter disingenuousness,  from a politician on this topic.

Alexander started his speech thusly:

“Vot­ers who turned out in Novem­ber are going to be pretty dis­ap­pointed when they learn the first thing some Democ­rats want to do is cut off the right of the peo­ple they elected to make their voices heard on the floor of the U.S. Sen­ate” (click here for text of speech).

That is, to be kind, a substantial distortion of what has been proposed (which Doug Mataconis discussed earlier today).  Worse, abuse of the cloture rule has increasingly meant less debate in the Senate, not more.  If Senators want to get out and use their rights to unlimited debate to, well, debate, that’s one thing.  It is wholly another for the threat alone of endless debate to be used as a procedural filibuster that postpones or kills a bill/nomination.

It is maddening to me that a proposed reform process that would require Senators to actually have to talk on the floor of the Senate in support of their filibusters is characterized as “cut[ting]off the right of the people they elected to make their voices heard on the floor of the U.S. Senate.”  Such assertions have a certain Bizarro-world logic to them.

I understand why the Republicans would be against changing the rules, but the proposed changes are actually fairly modest and maintain a number of minority prerogatives.  Really, the proposal less takes away powers as it makes it a bit more costly to deploy them.  This really isn’t such a bad idea and arguably in within the basic philosophy of the filibuster in the first place.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. As I noted in my own post this afternoon, even some conservatives are realizing that the Democratic reforms aren’t anything like the horror stories that McConnnell and the others are characterizing them to be.

    Whether that will be enough to create the kind of political momentum to allow the Democrats to change the rules is unclear. My guess is no and that we’re in for two more years of hobbling along with a Senate that is nearly non-functional

  2. I fear that you are correct.

  3. Concerned American says:

    Bizzaro-world logic has been standard operating procedure for the neo-con right for quite a long while now. In fact, their framing of issues is quite simply Orwellian. Black is white and lies are truth.

    Twisting the facts in order to distort, obfuscate and confuse the issues — is obviously the first chapter in the Faux News employee handbook.

    Informed, factual discussion and debate — why does our country need that?

  4. Rick DeMent says:

    What do you mean two more years. you think a GOP majority can change it without the cooperation of dems? ha! good one