Opinion: The Senate filibuster has long outlived its time

(AP)

It now seems all but certain that Senate Republicans will fall short of the 60 votes needed to bring up the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. In part because of honest concern about Gorsuch, and in part out of lingering anger that Republicans refused to even consider President Obama’s nomination for that open seat, Senate Democrats are refusing to play along.

Good. Good because the concerns about Gorsuch are real and worthy of expression, and good because the Democrats have every right to be angry and to make that anger felt.

And if that happens — if the threatened Democratic filibuster holds as expected — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that he will respond by invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” calling for a rules vote that would abolish the use of the filibuster in Supreme Court nominations. Republicans would then be able to confirm Gorsuch on a simple majority vote.

Good again.

Good because the Republicans did win the election, and with it the right to nominate and confirm Supreme Court justices. And good because the filibuster has become a major, almost insurmountable impediment to action that needs to be removed not just in confirmation votes but in legislative votes as well.

That suggestion angers Senate traditionalists for whom the filibuster is a reminder of an earlier era, of a time when the Senate actually did operate more or less as a collegial gentlemen’s club, with positive as well as negative consequences. In those less partisan times, media oversight was less intense and senators could quietly cut deals with the other party without being accused of partisan betrayal. Under those circumstances, in that system, the filibuster was a rarely used tool, employed only in extreme circumstances.

However, those conditions no longer exist, and no amount of nostalgia will bring them back. In these more partisan times, the pressure to filibuster has become too intense for minority parties to withstand, and the filibuster itself has become too easy to wield as a weapon. The modern Senate has in effect become a legislative body where 60 votes are required to do almost anything, and it was not designed to function that way.

Remember, the filibuster has no standing in the Constitution. Quite the contrary, it is a rule that the Senate imposed on itself, and in recent decades in particular it has functioned to frustrate rather than advance constitutional goals and has made Congress increasingly impotent. There’s a reason why, in designing Congress and more particularly the Senate, the Founding Fathers required supermajorities only in five very limited circumstances¹.

James Madison, writing in Federalist Papers #58, explained that reason clearly:

“In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority.”

Alexander Hamilton, writing in Federalist Papers #75, made the point as well:

“… all provisions which require more than the majority of any body to its resolutions, have a direct tendency to embarrass the operations of the government, and an indirect one to subject the sense of the majority to that of the minority”

At the moment, of course, that minority happens to be Democratic. Eliminating the filibuster now would empower the ruling Republicans and make it more difficult to block conservative legislative priorities that I personally would find objectionable. But the larger issue is that for the good of the country and the rejuvenation of democracy, we need a functional Congress and we currently don’t have one.

Kill the filibuster.


¹Under the Constitution, two-thirds majorities are required to override a presidential veto, to impeach a president or other official, to expel a duly elected member, to approve a constitutional amendment and in the Senate to ratify a treaty.

 

Reader Comments 0

1390 comments
N-GA-Online
N-GA-Online

While they are at it, why not ban "riders"? I mean each piece of legislation should pass or fail on its own merit. Including some near-invisible text about farm subsidies for pistachio growers when the primary bill is for funding education is nonsense. It is a negotiating tactic to win votes...nothing more.

Sandy Whitney
Sandy Whitney

The republicans refused to even hold a hearing on Garland. Why criticize the democrats for filibustering Gorsuch?

Mary
Mary

CNN's Don Lemon told his auidence last night he would not cover the Susan Rice story because it is a distraction from the real issue. ABC and NBC did not mention it on the evening news. CBS spent 45 seconds on the matter. Wonder why so many people call the mainstream media biased? FOX tells the truth!!

USMC2841
USMC2841

@jezel @Mary CNN uses Jim Sciutto (worked in Obama administration) to cover Susan Rice (Obama appointed head of NSA), who has a history of FAKE NEWS (see imprisoned film maker blamed for Benghazi).  Also, you'll note that Mrs. Rice is married to Ian Officer Cameron...ABC News Producer.  But by all means continue to question other news sources.

jezel
jezel

@Mary Why shoot the messenger because you do not like the message ?


Russian rumor mill....Sputnik News....Breitbart....Fox News.....all spread fake news.


Obama has no birth certificate.....the inauguration crowd was huge....there was a terrorist attack in Kentucky.....alternative facts....


trump supporters are played because they read only conservative media

Philo_Farnsworth
Philo_Farnsworth

What did Nunes and Schiff see at the WH?

Dirty deeds by Rice.

Slammer time.

Mary
Mary

I think Dr. King would be very disappointed in the way his message and legacy is being distorted by many. From what I've read about Dr. King, he was about respect and dignity of all people. Not the villain mindset so many carry out today in the good name of Dr. King. Shame on you!!

Elizabeth Tudor
Elizabeth Tudor

@Mary Stop appropriating King for your own agenda.  He would loathe and fight against the modern Republican party with his whole heart and soul. 

rimsky
rimsky

A suicide bomber was behind the grisly attack on the St. Petersburg subway, Russian authorities said Tuesday as the death toll rose to 14.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/st-petersburg-subway-bomb-suspect-idd-reports-n742376

++++

This ISIS influence is growing.

Guess what lack of jobs and poverty will keep fueling this violence.

Most of the Europeans have got it right by reducing poverty level by taxing the rich and redistributing the wealth.  It is not enough because the rich keep richer.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Ah, so it's another day of Burn the Negress.

LordHelpUs
LordHelpUs

Heck, there are reports Trump likes to get trickled on by Russian prostitutes...

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

"To pretend Trump 'kicked Hillary's butt' as IMT2 stated is fantasy. He got in by the skin of his teeth. Something he should remember every day when his advisers tell him he has to shore up his extremist Republican base."

Yes, he should. And if a non-trivial percentage of his supporters were willing to acknowledge just *that* much, political life would be far less irksome than it is.

KUTGF
KUTGF

Given Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election, it’s not surprising that Rice would look at intelligence reports on Russia, including conversations by Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. If those conversations were with Americans, it follows that Rice would ask for the names to understand more about the conversation.

“There is no legal issue, and if the conversations were by official members of the presidential transition team conducting government business, it is hard to even see what privacy interest those individuals had in such conversations,” Martin said.
________________

our RWers sure do love to gnaw at nothing burgers.

td1234
td1234

@KUTGF Given that the reports say the unmasking Nunes saw had absolutely nothing to do with Russia then the article you posted is nothing more than spin and propaganda. 

td1234
td1234

@StraightNoChaser And there is absolutely ZERO evidence of collusion. Clapper (Obama Appointee) no evidence, Morrell (Obama appointee) no evidence. 

kitty72
kitty72

@KUTGF  We already know they are full of hot air so nothing burgers are a favorite dish.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@td1234 @KUTGF Russian collusion is treason and is what is being investigated by the FBI no matter how many times Trump throws out his worthless Trump steaks to distract.  

Elizabeth Tudor
Elizabeth Tudor

@td1234 @StraightNoChaser Of course, you can't really know there's no evidence since the investigation is in process.  At the very end is when you can say no evidence.  And if we find evidence, Trump et al are going down   

LordHelpUs
LordHelpUs

@KUTGF RWers are conditioned to salivate at the name Susan Rice, much like they are conditioned to salivate over the name George Soros.

Their media has them by their tiny testicles...

Resist Trump
Resist Trump

There are reports that I will qualify for this year's US Open through sectionals, then I will win the tournament, and then I will get my first invitation to the 2018 Masters Tournament.

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

 Dude, Obama was preezy then.

-

And thus does the level of discourse remain when conducted solely on narrow partisan gotcha terms: 

moronic.

rimsky
rimsky

In 2015, according to its air command headquarters, NATO scrambled jets more than 400 times to intercept Russian military aircraft that were flying without having broadcast their required identification code or having filed a flight plan. In 2016, that number had leapt to 780—an average of more than two intercepts a day.

http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/trump-russia-putin-military-crisis/

++++++

Looks like Trump is helping his buddy Putin to screw America.

rimsky
rimsky

@Philo_Farnsworth Donald had back channel dealings with Putin. Trump has been underming America for years.  LOL

Fl0ydLiberal
Fl0ydLiberal

@rimsky No need for a military conquest. Donald owes them the entire contents of Ft Knox and the profits of Wall Street.

Philo_Farnsworth
Philo_Farnsworth

Trump tweeted about Rice.

Now the MSM can't ignore her anymore.

Lol

td1234
td1234

@Philo_Farnsworth There are reports that a couple the LSM had the Rice story for months and put it in a desk drawer. 

td1234
td1234

@KUTGF If the story I posted from the Daily Caller is true then absolutely she did something illegal. 

honested
honested

@td1234 @KUTGF 

Story from the 'daily caller' and 'true' don't belong in the same paragraph!!

rimsky
rimsky

@Philo_Farnsworth Only the poorly educated deplorables believe Trump.  56% of American think Trump is a liar.

td1234
td1234

More good news about Trump keeping campaign promises. 


"UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The State Department said on Monday it was ending U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund, the international body's agency focused on family planning as well as maternal and child health in more than 150 countries.

In a letter to U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, the State Department said it was dropping the funding because the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) "supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."

The cut marks U.S. President Donald Trump's first move to curtail funding for the United Nations and is likely to raise further questions about how deep those cuts will eventually go throughout the organization, where the United States is the top donor.

It comes after Trump in January reinstated the so-called Mexico City Policy that withholds U.S. funding for international organizations that perform abortions or provide information about abortion."

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

News crew follows Ossoff over to site of I-85 bridge collapse where he will spend the rest of the day dragging out clumps of concrete with his bare hands, the World needs to know