Time to End the Filibuster By Making It Real

Phantom filibusters must end, but real filibuster must continue.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Is it time to eliminate the filibuster? Definitely not. But David RePass, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, has an interesting suggestion in today's New York Times along those lines but distinctly short of it.

Robert's 8th Rule of Politics tells us that parties in power rarely give much thought to how their power grabs might redound upon them when they are out of power. Pols forget that one day they will be in the minority and the powers they've been expanding could be turned upon them. It would not be a surprise for Democrats to want to eliminate the filibuster, regardless of the long-term consequences.

RePass bemoans the fact that the filibuster has given the senate's minority party a functional veto over legislation in that chamber by requiring at least 60 votes to pass something. But, he points out, real filibusters never actually happen these days: the modern "filibuster" is more threat than action.

Which is where RePass' solution comes in:

... fixing the problem would not require any change in Senate rules. The phantom filibuster could be done away with overnight by the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. All he needs to do is call the minority's bluff by bringing a challenged measure to the floor and letting the debate begin.

In other words, don't get rid of the filibuster. Instead make it real: Force Republicans to actually get up and tie up Senate business and explain why they're doing it. If the GOP (or the Democrats, in time, when they are back in the minority), want to filibuster they should be able to—but they should have to actually do it.

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