January 26, 2011

Whither Filibuster Reform?

By CREW Staff

What seemed like a promising breakthrough for reforming the wildly abused filibuster now seems nothing more than a paltry gentleman's handshake that won't fundamentally alter Senate rules.  As a New York Times editorial reveals today, "Democrats are afraid the new rules will put them at a disadvantage should their party fall to a minority."  We here at CREW have long argued this should not be about partisan advantage.  It's nice to see that the New York Times sees things our way too.  In response to concerns of Democratic members, the editorial continues:

The rules need to be changed not to cripple one party or the other but to improve the efficiency of the Senate no matter who is in power. There is no excuse for even routine budgets and spending bills to languish for lack of 60 votes. (Emphasis added)

There may be some good things coming out of the negotiations, however:

The agreement being negotiated by the leadership of both parties would at least make it harder to block presidential nominations with anonymous holds and would reduce the number of positions needing Senate confirmation - welcome changes.

But will an agreement in theory and not in the rules be enough?

The two parties are also expected to reach a "handshake agreement" to cut back on filibusters and allow the minority party a greater chance to offer amendments to bills. But such agreements can easily fall apart in the chamber's charged environment.

We couldn't agree more. As we have stated before, real change does need to restore and promote the ability of Senators to introduce and debate legislation.  Reforming filibusters means empowering the Senate with the ability to do what it was created to do: debate and pass laws.  Building a better Washington depends on it.

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