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  • Morning Bell: The Fight for the Filibuster

    When does a day last three weeks? When Senate Democrats want to rewrite the rules of the Senate to make it easier for the Majority Leader to end debate and block the amendment process.

    This Wednesday, the United States Senate is set to meet for its first “legislative day” of the new Congress, and a group of progressive Senators are expected to introduce changes to the Senate rules designed to limit the use of the filibuster. But the left has not settled on a single rule change plan. To buy time to get his troops in line, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV), rather than simply adjourning until January 24, is expected to recess the chamber, meaning the Senate will technically still be in the same “legislative day” when they reconvene on January 24. Maybe if Reid spent less time manipulating the rules to his narrow partisan advantage, the minority would not need to resort to the filibuster in the first place.

    The filibuster is unquestionably constitutional. Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution states clearly: “Each house may determine the rule of its proceedings.” And from the founding of the country, the Senate was designed to be a more deliberative body. In his Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, James Madison wrote: “In order to judge the form to be given [the Senate], it will be proper to take a view of the ends to be served by it. These were first to protect the people against their rulers: secondly to protect the people against the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led.” This is why all 435 Members of the House—but only one-third of the Senate—face election every two years.

    Contrary to what the Progressives believe, the slow progress of legislation through the Senate is a feature, not a bug, of the Framers’ design. In his 1833 treatise on the Constitution, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story explained that “a good law had better occasionally fail, rather than bad laws be multiplied with a heedless and mischievous frequency. Even reforms, to be safe, must in general, be slow.” The first effort to speed legislation through the Senate came, of course, from Progressive President Woodrow Wilson, who pressed Senate Democrats to create Rule 22, which allowed the Senate to end debate on a measure if two-thirds of the body agreed. That number has since been lowered to today’s 60-vote threshold.

    The left and their media allies love to bemoan the fact that the minority in the 111th Congress set a record for filibustering legislation. Left unreported by the media is that Reid manipulated the rules of the Senate to shatter a little record of his own. A tactic commonly referred to as “filling the amendment tree” allows a Majority Leader to offer up a series of non-substantive amendments that take up all the time allotted for debate. This prevents the minority from offering any amendments to a bill. Reid justified this tactic to The Huffington Post in July: “This isn’t a new method that I dreamed up. Anytime there is an election there is not a leader who is dumb enough to put a bill on the floor that is subject to amendments.”

    So how many times has Reid used this “filling the tree” tactic that is specifically designed to shut out substantive amendments from the minority? According to the Congressional Research Service, Reid employed the procedure a record 44 times, more than the past six Majority Leaders combined. Senator Olympia Snowe (R–ME) took to the floor to protest its use during debate on a defense authorization bill:

    First and foremost, the Senate should have the ability to debate more than the three amendments the Majority Leader is allowing, especially as this bill is the largest discretionary authorization measure that Congress considers, that the bill describes the policies and programs that provide resources and direction to the nearly 2.4 million men and women of the military—active, reserve and civilians, including the courageous Americans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that two of the three amendments don’t even relate to the military. It is therefore imperative that Senate deliberations on the defense bill be conducted without limitations and in a manner that allows for the consideration of all related amendments that Senators may wish to offer.

    If the Senate narrows or eliminates the filibuster, Reid will have even less incentive to allow debate and amendments. The Senate will cease to be a deliberative body, and the majority party will have unfettered power to pass legislation and confirm nominees with little or no debate. This is not what the Founders intended.

    The fight over the Senate filibuster is one of limited government versus big government. If you believe that ideas should be debated openly and transparently, and meet the test of intellectual opposition before they are voted into law and affect our lives, then you want the filibuster to stay. If you prefer an unchecked activist government that can more easily legislate bad ideas into law through a more rushed process, then you may be open to the left’s latest gambit.

    Today, at 2 PM, Senator Lamar Alexander (R–TN) will speak at The Heritage Foundation in defense of the filibuster. In his planned remarks, which you can watch live later today here, Alexander says: “Voters who turned out in November are going to be pretty disappointed when they learn the first thing 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.”

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    33 Responses to Morning Bell: The Fight for the Filibuster

    1. West Texan says:

      As per Merriam Webster's definition, Harry Reid is a sneaky, untrustworthy, and insincere Weasel. Just what the guy looks like.

    2. freedom says:

      Here is the first big thing for the Heritage and all Tea Partiers to fight against. What was Boehner thinking in appointing this guy head of the energy committee? This is not what the November elections were about. I want this guy notified by everyone on our side that he will be the first to go in 2012 if he doesn't use his chairmanship to bring back the incandescent light bulb and encourage looking for new energy sources in this country.

      I don't want him wasting our time leaving things to the courts for them to solve over the next two years. This can be found on nationalreview.com:

      Courting Failure

      Republicans have a chance to score, but they are getting ready to punt.

      Andrew C. McCarthy

    3. Bill Phillps says:

      this kind of action only serves to show anyone with a brain in his/her head, that these people do not care about the wishes of the people (whom they were elected to represent), but are only concerned with their own political welfare. i pray to God they can all be defeated in the next election.

    4. Dennis Georgia says:

      This smells like a dictatorship in the making. The dems and obama belive they have the right to "RULE" and noone can stop them. We the people have to stand up to these thugs and their self centered ideas. The past election has meant nothing to them and the liberals.

    5. toledofan says:

      It's clear to me that the Republican Senators now need to stand stand firm not allowing the Democrats to gain additional power or any political clout. I think the Senate is going to be a volitle place and because of the Republicans who think they have to cross the aisle and offer compromise, they will, I'm sure give away unnecessary political capital. Reid is the epitome of what is wrong in Washington and until the Republicans decide to do what is best for America and take him on, nothing will change. I fear the Republicans will, again, loose the war because they just can't muster the courage to stand up to the press or the Democrats for fear they will be painted as the bad guys. We need a strong leader and I'm not too sure McConnel is up to the task; look at what happened during the lame duck session.

    6. Richard H. Irish, Ed says:

      When, oh when, will this country return to our Constitution? I suggest we START by looking for a president who actually is the REQUIRED natural born citizen with BOTH parents being U.S. citizens as mandated in that Constitution.

    7. Dangerous Dick, Cord says:

      Thank you for your excellent work to educate America about its Heritage. We heard about the filibuster issue last night, and sent this letter to our Senators.

      Senators xxx and zzz

      Subject: Senate Filibuster Rules

      We do not want Senate Filibuster Rules changed. Moreover, we do not want you to spend time seeking any “middle ground” on this issue with Senate Democrats.

      The effort to change the filibuster rules is just another example of the main goal of today’s left. That is, to not respond to public opinion, but to impose the dream of an egalitarian entitlement state whether the public likes it or not. In 2010, American voters saw the left’s agenda and said, ‘Stop’.

      In a 31 December editorial, the Wall Street Journal stated the lesson from 2010 is for Republicans to understand the nature of their political opponents, and the challenge for Republicans is to repair the damage before it becomes permanent. You will not be able to meet this challenge if you begin by changing Senate Filibuster Rules.

    8. laurie, Hawaii says:

      Oh, you G-R-E-E-IDER, power grabbing, freedom squashing "Senator".

      What other dictatorial tactics do you have in mind to destroy the people's freedom while we are tortured by taxes, regulations to paralyze business, "green" house rules which close down our factories (light bulbs, etc.) and hand-over our profits to our enemies (as China), loss of jobs due to the Bomber's no-oil-digging and endless lies in our valley of tears…..on our path to become a slave state, called "progressivism", the POISON LOLLIPOP of all times. Do not let these corrupt ones fool us as we are struggling to feed our children in this survival mode. We must not give up. People come back!

    9. Van Peski, Deming, N says:

      You wish to retain a civil society under a totally disreputable Government. Rot's a Ruck…

    10. B. Hall Syosset N.Y. says:

      So the democrats took a pounding, Harry doesn't care. He just changes the rules. Thats what the idiots in Nevada get for re-electing him. Unfortunatly the rest of the country has to pay for it

    11. Andrew, Michigan says:

      Filibuster Rule change is a two-edged sword.

      1. If Reid plans this rules change, would it not also be easier for the Republican led Congress to pass sweeping repeals/conservative legislation with only 51 Senate votes needed?

      2. Legislatively speaking the Senate will not succeed with a significant progressive agenda because it also has to pass the House. I hope that I am correct in thinking that the business of the 111th is completed and will not carry over to the 112th such as the Cap and Trade/Energy Bill that the 111th House already passed.

      3. The only major short-term benefit is that of nominees. If this passes, I think it shall hinder the Democrats more than aid them.

      I consider myself a novice in these topics so feel free to correct me if I have mis-spoken. I may be a novice but I am an interested novice open to additional learnings. Thanks

    12. Elizabeth Moore, 434 says:

      And, Senator Alexander, there is one voter who is pretty upset about your vote for the START Treaty. Did any Senator happen to think Russia may have a weapon that they know can overcome our present detection system and that is why they want to eliminate our ability to develop more advance protection for the United States for a more adanced weapon they are developing?

    13. F.D. O'Toole, N says:

      Some years ago Dorothy Rabinowitz in the WSJ contrasted the world-view of Republicans vs. Democrats. As I remember it, only Democrats embraced a pull-no-punches fight for power. This morning we see Harry Reid fully engaged against the Republican minority while John Boehner in the House "offers a package of rule changes that will give minority (Democrats) more say and decentralize control." I must be missing something but didn't the American people elect a huge number of representatives to stop the Democrats? Is there any use electing Republicans if they are going to lie down with those who would turn us into a welfare state?

    14. Jim says:

      If the Dems succeed, then the House steps up to the plate and insist that all legislation and funding begin with their body. That way, the Senate can only react to what the other body offers as legislation.

    15. Edward P.Woolley says:

      If the Democrats succeed in eliminating,or reducing its effectiveness,of the fillibuster isn't this tanatmount to an enabling law,such as was used in the 1930s?

    16. MJF, CT says:

      Harry Reid is a snake! He will do anything to undermine the American People and he should have been voted out last November. He and Nancy Pelosi have taken the American People to the bank and robbed them blind!

    17. al smith says:

      Is there a way to destroy Harry Ried and his Gene -Pool??????This scum is going to fowl the America we once new. When you let a snake like this go on to destroy lives in the future, you to have to wonder what can be done.

    18. Philip Doolittle Jr. says:

      I Think ANDREW in Mich. Has the answer.Suggest you reread his comments. Thanks to the HERITAGE for the topic and the comments.

    19. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Back in the period from 1994-2006, when the Republicans had control of both the

      House and the Senate, especially the Senate, there was talk of the so-called "Nuclear

      Option." That was a complete ban by the majority party, (the Republicans), of the use

      of the filibuster by the minority party, (the Democrats). The filibuster was saved by the

      so-called "Gang of Fourteen, which included John McCain. Now that the Democrats are still hanging on by the skin of their teeth in the Senate, will Harry Reid move to impose the "nuclear option" on the Republicans?

    20. john h reed says:

      Just when you think that Reid and co. may [get it] they come up with the next obstacle to do the peoples will by doing what they can to [do their will] Railroad John Tolland Ct.

    21. Helga Woerner New Me says:

      WHAT were the people of Nevada thinking reelecting this UNSCUPULOUS peson again? he dos not have our interst at hart. The GOP better watch out, we send them to Washington to fight for the Constitution and US. We in the TEAPARTY and Regular conservatives are watching, don't forget 2012

    22. RUTH WEDGEFIELD SC says:

      We already know how soured grapes the left is. Why would anyone expect them to do what would be good for the country? If there is a way to do something underhanded and rotten, they will stay up all night to figure it out. There are too many double standards the left live by. Obama did everything in his power to prevent the conservatives from having any voice for two years, his top people, Pelosi and Reid will stop at nothing. Now maybe the right should pass some bills so THEY can see what is in them, and see how they like it. She is dumber than dirt, at least you can use dirt to grow things, she is useless. God Help Us!!!!!!

    23. Michael Crist, Lewis says:

      Lamar Alexander is not a conservative Republican. The Heritage Foundation can do better than help him pretend to be one by inviting him to speak. Alexander and TN's other "Republican" senator, Bob Corker, voted for New START in the dying days of the 111th. Moreover, Lamar was the deciding vote in a key provision of ObamaCare. I am old (though not as old as Lamar) and can't remember the details of that vote. I believe it had something to do with Federal monies and abortion. I have pledged MY time and MY money to the defeat of Lamar and Bob. Bring 'em both back to Rocky Top!

    24. Michael Crist, Lewis says:

      Lamar Alexander is not a conservative Republican. The Heritage Foundation can do better than help him pretend to be one by inviting him to speak. Alexander and TN's other "Republican" senator, Bob Corker, voted for New START in the dying days of the 111th. Moreover, Lamar was the deciding vote in a key provision of ObamaCare. I am old (though not as old as Lamar) and can't remember the details of that vote. I believe it had something to do with Federal monies and abortion. I have pledged MY time and MY money to the defeat of Lamar and Bob. Bring 'em both back to Rocky Top!

    25. Whitney/CA says:

      I'm still amazed there were actually enough voters in Nevada and my very own state of California to re-elect their sleezy Senators. Considering what they had already done in the Senate and what they are obviously capable of doing in an effort to destroy this country, it's frightening. Since I have no Senator to represent my views in Congress, I pray that enough non-progressive Senators and Representatives (Republicans, Democrats and Independents) will stand strong against any further nonsense like this that would undermine America's beloved Constitution. I'm sure this filibuster issue is only the tip of the iceberg.

    26. James Manning says:

      Do not for a minute believe the leftists are trying to get more centered or trying to be more bi-partisan. They are and always will be ‘end justifies the mean, government knows better than citizens socialists.’ They already have our government funded education systems looking to them as their money pot and their mother and father figures and they have spent 75 or more years conniving, scheming, lying and now forcing themselves into every element of our nation’s sum and substance. They are determined to rewrite our constitution and change how our children see freedom, liberty and independence. They are determined to change America into a nation of dependant robots who wait for the pseudo-intellectual upper class to dole out what they feel the rest of the population needs to keep them all equally reliant and equally mediocre, unexceptional and pedestrian. ‘Live irresponsibly, breed dumb and and be quiet while we take care of you’ should be the mantra of these nitwits.

    27. Bonnie, The Villages says:

      The vote in NV was as corrupt as any that has ever taken place. Thank the Unions that decended on Las Vegas on November 2nd. They pulled union people away from work and forced them to vote for Reid. Also, the Unions maintained the voting machines in the state. There were many reported voting machines not working properly and there was also a power outage that day. Have any questions?

    28. JMFELS,,NEW JERSEY says:

      Now is the time to show the democrats we mean business ..tne new Republicans should go balistic and begin to condemn the followers of this pres…what the dems. are doing is dictatorial and tryannical….and this is showing the public that thesocialistic marxiists dont give a tinkers damn about the citizens of this greart country….God Bless and 1776 in 2010

    29. Pingback: Video: Filibuster Hypocrisy | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    30. Lee-White Tanks AZ says:

      No one with an ounce of common sense and governmental moxie did not know exactly what Harry Reid would do if reelected. And, his reelection was a sure thing with the SEIU maintaining the voting machines, DUH. That whole election was a masterpiece of misdirection, misinformation and fixed polls. Dr. Goebbels had to be smiling.

      Once reelected he would use every trick, fair or foul, and every power, these are many and considerable, of his office to thwart any attempt by the incoming Republicans to undo or reorganize the catastrophic mess the last four years of Democrat Legislative Leadership and the Obama Presidency had produced.

      And, knowing this the Republican establishment pulled the plug on Angle. I want someone to tell me that they didn't know what they were doing.

      Be forewarned, the ruling elite will prevail if left to their own devices. This rats nest must be fumigated.

    31. William, Illinois says:

      The slow process of legislation in the Senate is also circumvented by the administrative state, ie, bureaucrats that have the power to write in rules after the fact, thus changing legislation altogether with the mere stroke of a pen. This is outrageous, and MUST stop.

      These agencies, and others like them have somehow been given the ability to make rules, (legislate), decide who is guilty of breaking the rules without benefit of a trial, (judicial power), and fine or otherwise punish the “guilty”, (executive power). Now, where in the Constitution do these unelected bureaucrats get the authority to do this? Right, NO WHERE, and it’s time to change their role to one of ADVISORS only.

      When all 3 powers of government reside in one “branch” that is the very definition of tyranny.

    32. RayRay - waco, tx says:

      Is anyone surprised by the depth of corruption? I'm not. I wish I could understand the complexities and arrogance of the corruption so that me, my family and friends would better be prepared for the "real" corruption coming our way.

      Is total oppression going to be the rule of the day? Will anarchy be sparked at some point soon? Will a Hugo Chavez-type rule be instituted? Will Executive Orders, Decrees, Mandates or, whatever the hell you call them, officially shut down the role of Congress?


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