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  • Filibuster Reform Is a Bad Idea

    The Washington Post reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) has pledged to reform the filibuster—if and only if he retains his position as Majority Leader in the next Congress and President Obama wins a second term.

    This shows that Reid has no ideological commitment to “filibuster reform”; he merely has a commitment to expand his powers in the next Congress. It is a safe bet that Reid and his fellow liberals will abandon and fight “filibuster reform” if Republicans take over the Senate and/or Mitt Romney is elected president.

    The “filibuster reform” of choice for the left is Senator Tom Udall’s (D–NM) S. Res. 10. Udall’s heart is in the right place. He is still in his first term and is witnessing a Senate in dysfunction. The problem is that his solution will not magically change the Senate into a functioning body and may do more harm than good.

    The Udall rules change would remove the opportunity for Senators to filibuster a motion to proceed to a bill. This has been a tool of the minority party to force an open debate on legislation. Reid has abused his authority as majority leader to block the minority party from the opportunity to offer amendments over 60 times, more times than all of his predecessors combined. Many times, the minority party has filibustered motions to proceed to bills for the purposes of securing an agreement to be allowed amendments on a bill. It is one tool for Members to make sure they are allowed to fully participate in the debate and amendment process.

    The Udall rules change would also allow only three amendments to be offered by the majority leader and minority leader that are germane to the underlying bill at the end of the process. Most likely, this would set in stone the idea that the majority leader would block out all amendments to bills as a routine procedural process and allow the minority party only three germane amendments to bills.

    The Senate has had a long tradition of allowing all amendments—relevant and non-relevant, germane and non-germane—to bills. The technical definition of “non-germane amendment” according to the official Senate website, is “an amendment that would add new and different subject matter to, or may be irrelevant to, the bill or other measure it seeks to amend. Senate rules permit nongermane amendments in all but a few specific circumstances.”

    On July 18, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–KY) made the important point that “the core problem here is that my good friend the majority leader as a practical matter is running the whole Senate because everything is centralized in his office, which diminishes the opportunity for Senators of both parties to represent their constituents. Look, we all were sent here by different Americans who expected us to have a voice, to have an opportunity to effect legislation. I would say to my good friend the majority leader, we don’t have a rules problem, we have an attitude problem.”

    McConnell went as far as to say on Sean Hannity’s radio show this week that Reid has “already kind of turned the Senate majority leader’s office into an office for a dictator.” McConnell is correct to point out that the minority party has been cut out of the legislative process in a manner that is offensive to the traditions and history of the Senate.

    According to the Senate’s official history, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison saw the federal representatives of the states in the Senate as the great anchor of the government. George Washington is said to have told Jefferson that the Framers had created the Senate to “cool” House legislation just as a saucer was used to cool hot tea, according to the Senate historian.

    The leadership in the Senate may want to cool it on so-called “filibuster reform” and work toward comity and a more collegial atmosphere. Rules changes will not fix the Senate; only Senators working together can fix the Senate.

    Posted in Featured, Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    11 Responses to Filibuster Reform Is a Bad Idea

    1. Bobbie says:

      Mr. McConnel is a sincere man that we can all empathize the collective arrogance of the democratic party he and the GOP are put through! Everything the democrats do is an excuse not to move until they get their way and then we the people are still set up by them no matter what part of their way they get! Unprincipled!

      We want America back and we want her principles shown through her roles of leadership! That eliminates the democratic party!

    2. Stirling says:

      Reid clearly just wants to silence the minority party. Which is what Big Government progressives have always wanted. When it's majority rules without recourse you have Tyranny. When the democrats find themselves in the minority for the next generation they will probably be glad they did not follow thru with this bad idea.

    3. Andrew says:

      I think a great reform would be to re-institute the "Mr. Smith" style provision a filibuster. As I understand it, a senator can filibuster — but not do the endless talking,as Jimmy Stewart did in "Mr. Smith Gos to Washington," that used to be required for the parliamentary action.

      I think if you forced these old men in the Senate to actually do the physical "labor" for the filibusters they offer, you will see less of them.

    4. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Harry Reid acts like he's a prince.

    5. jettthemesh says:

      Thank you Wolfe for this post. The only thing that Harry Reid deserves is a hemp rope.

    6. MilitaryPatriot says:

      Reid is a communist Mormon. What else is new. No surprise here. Just the usual Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Obama thuggery. Leftist never want an intellectual mature debate on anything. It's only their way or the highway. No one gets their way but the thug way.

    7. MilitaryPatriot says:

      I am surprise Heritage, I thought you people stood for freedom of speech. Everything I said was the truth. Truth hurts doesn't it?

    8. John Stewart says:

      The new rules of the (Progressive Reid) Senate are "I'm taking my football and going home". I'll bet Tip O'neil is spinning in his gave. Ain't it kinda funny the games children play.

    9. Stephen says:

      For Reid to suggest eliminating the filibuster is pure Circus. Both parties know that with or without ,the filibuster is a double edged sword.

    10. Eric Maher says:

      The Senate was designed to "cool" the heat of the House of Representatives, but the Senate was designed to be made up of Senators chosen by the state legislatures. That might be a very good idea to go back to. Also, perhaps we should go back to limiting the number of citizens represented by each member of the House (increasing the total number of House members), which would reduce the importance of each House member.

    11. rose says:

      Abuse of the filibuster and secret holds have brought governance to a grinding halt.

      Why on earth would any honest person object to transparency on who is holding something up, and requiring actual effort if you want to throw a monkey wrench in the gears?

      Enough guerilla government, come out into the sunshine.

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