Should the Senate change its rules to make the filibuster less routine?

Some in Congress blame part of Washington’s famous gridlock on abuse of the filibuster. It’s the tactic that allows one side or the other to insist on a supermajority vote on just about any issue. Today’s Question: Should the Senate change its rules to make the filibuster less routine?

  • Donovan

    Yes. It shouldn’t be eliminated entirely but it should be harder to pull off. Requiring the senator to stay at the podium and continue talking continuously (as was originally the case) would be a good first step.

  • Kurt Cant

    Yes. We need to change the filibuster back to what it was before the 1975 rule change. Back then, it was a tactic that required senators to stand up and speak continuously to block passage of a bill that they strongly opposed. (For example, the famous scene in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”) Because everyone knew who was blocking the vote, it was a powerful tool that was only used in extreme circumstances.

    A rule change in 1975 changed all that. The number of votes required to end a filibuster was reduced from 65 to 60, but the actual requirement that you stand up and talk was eliminated. That one rule change ultimately turned it into a routine procedural tactic that raised the threshold for passage to 60 votes. That is not what the Founders envisioned when they wrote the Constitution, and the rule needs to be rolled back to how it was in the days of Mr. Smith.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Yes. At very least it should not be possible to use the filibuster to prevent a bill coming to the floor.

    The abuse of the filiibuster in recent decades has been destructive of civic participation. A chief reason people choose not to vote is the perception that elections don’t matter. The feeling is, “I voted, and my candidate won, but nothing changed, so why bother?” Filibuster abuse is largely to blame for this.

    I understand the logic behind the filibuster, that there should be a way for the minority to slow down rash decisions by a hot-headed majority. However, I think voters would take elections more seriously if the stakes were higher. Voters would be less likely to vote for extremists, and non-voters would be less complacent, if there were more of a risk that extremists could actually get their policies enacted.

  • Sue de Nim

    Yes. And they should do away with secret holds, too.

  • GaryF

    No, because in 2 more years the Democrats will not have the oval office or control in the Senate and may need the current filibuster rules.

  • Chuck

    Yes, I do think the filibuster rules need change. The present system allows individual senators to block bills that they have a personal grudge against without having to be accontable for their actions to the people they represent. Unfortunately, it seems to me, that a number of senators have been “purchased” by well heeled industrial groups and vote the way the “money” tells them to vote.

    The secret “holds” should also disappear.

    I believe that the average citizen has lost a great deal of his/her power to influence officals even though more communications forums are available.

  • Clark

    No- As the two parties become more polarized, the democrats more far left demanding wealth be distributed to their parasitic supporters and the republicans become far more conservative, taking their instruction from the religious right, its nice to know there is some protection in the current rules so no side can become too extreme in the laws they pass.

  • Steve the Cynic

    On the contrary, Clark. The easy filibuster has made the polarization worse, because its overuse by both sides has stoked resentment and encouraged the digging in of heels.

    Oh, and btw, you’ve misconstrued the nature of the Republican coalition. They never did take direction from the religious right; they merely gave lip service to it, while pushing the plutocratic policies of the big money interests that funded them. When evangelical conservatives began to take their Bibles seriously and realize that God does indeed consider social justice at least as important as sexual morality, their support for the Republican party waned. Lately, Republicans haven’t even been giving lip service to the religious right.

  • http://www.idealpolicy.com Rose

    No.

    When a party (and both parties have used and abused the privilege) incorporates filibuster as a strategy they should defend it to their constituents. The filibuster tactic can be a waste of time and the person and the party have to be able to explain or defend why they are wasting time while on the job. In my opinion, once elected the person represents ALL the people, not just their party or the ones who voted for them.

  • Justin

    I think that they should change the rules, not do away with the filibuster entirely. There is something to be said for the minority being able to slow down the majority, so that true bipartisanship at least has a snowball’s chance in h$&l of occurring.

    That being said, I also think that it is imperative that the Congress do something about the incredible divide that is in existence right now. People are fed up with electing people to office who do nothing, and posture on television. Both parties are guilty of this, and need to do more things like they did during the lame-duck session.

  • http://www.theresacrater.com Theresa

    Yes. The Republicans held up everything for the last two years, then went out and campaigned that nothing in Washington was working. People are so busy and ill-informed that they didn’t realize it was because the Republicans fillibustered everything, so they elected more of the problem. The U.S. is still in bad shape and needs government’s help. The fillibuster makes it impossible to get anything done. Get rid of it. 51 is a majority.

  • BJ

    I know it has been threatened to be used, but when was it actually used last?

    I hear stories only referring to the threat of a filibuster. And having filibuster proof majorities.

    Anyone?

  • Anonymous

    Yes. The Republicans acted like the child on the playground who threatens to take their ball and leave when they don’t get what they want. The democrats should have forced them to actually filibuster instead of always backing down.

  • Dale Howey

    Kill the filibuster! Or at least make them stand at the podium. You only need file a filibuster with the clerk and go home. It was originally necessary to have non-stop debate until the clock ran out and then have the billed shelved. This is rather inconvenient. Let’s make it so again and have continuous debate if that is going to be used, so we can put the boob on display when obstructing government business. Republicans held up many of President Obamas Federal appointments. Rediculous!

  • P. Nielsen

    Not eliminate it entirely but return it to its original way of using it……if a senator wishes to use a filibuster, then he/she must remain standing and talking and no other member can come and take their place. No doubt, there are many other “rules” which could do with a bit of revision and/or elimination, too.

  • Jeff

    Many people seem to forget that the Senate was supposed to make bills more difficult to pass, it was meant to be a place where the anger and emotion of an issue would be mitigated. In fact, the Founding Fathers hoped Senators would be more likely to consider the long-term effects of legislation and practice a more mature, thoughtful and deep approach in their deliberations. That is why Senators are elected for six-year terms, they remain somewhat more insulated from the people, thus less likely to be tempted to vote according to the short-term passions of public opinion. I also hope that the people that are demanding that we get rid of the filibuster would feel the same way if the Democrats didn’t hold a majority in the senate.

  • Tom Noerper

    Yes to new rules. I support Senator Udall and those proposing changes.

    The current rules allow senators to block Senate business without even remaining present in the room. They file paperwork and go home.

    I think they should have to remain present, and hold the floor, just like Jimmy Stewart, if it’s really that important.

  • Steve

    the filibuster needs to be modified so yes it would be good but some sort of check system needs to be in place so streamlining can be used in bill generation!

  • Tony

    Absolutely. If you want to filibuster, then you MUST stand and speak until you are done speaking. And no bathroom breaks. If you’re going to be one, be a big red one.

    After that the bill can be voted on.

  • Sue de Nim

    The filibuster has evolved into little more than a temper tantrum thrown by senators, like spoiled children who whine and fuss and keep their parents from dealing with anything else, no matter how important, until they get the cookies they’re demanding. Yes, it should be reformed, if not abolished.

  • Lisa

    I don’t think that the filibuster should be done away with, but I think that instead of just being able to sit around being a bad tempered child, any Senator (of WHATEVER party) should have to speak. And I don’t mean read the phone book. They should have to engage in an intelligent expression or defense of their point of view, no matter how difficult that might be for some of them,.

  • Lisa

    I don’t think that the filibuster should be done away with, but I think that instead of just being able to sit around being a bad tempered child, any Senator (of WHATEVER party) should have to speak. And I don’t mean read the phone book. They should have to engage in an intelligent expression or defense of their point of view, no matter how difficult that might be for some of them,.

  • Patrick

    Definitely yes. The Senate has become a secretive elitist group of spoiled brats. Very little debate is public. Secret deals and three day work weeks make it less and less representative. And we pay these belt-way aristocrats?!!

  • Randee

    Yes, a change is obviously needed. It has been abused.

  • Bruce

    Yes. The proposal put forth by Udall, Klobuchar et al. is a good step forward.

    It by no means eliminates the filibuster: their proposal restores it to its previous status. That is, something out of the ordinary.

    Under the proposal, every bill can still be filibustered. The main difference is that senators actually have to engage in the filibuster instead of taking the coward’s way out. In addition, the filibuster cannot be imposed at every step of the way.

    The minority still has the right to filibuster. If someone wants to pull a Jimmy Stewart they can: they actually have to have the guts to do it, rather than just threaten it.

  • Ben

    yes. back to 67. a true 2/3 majority

    Also tweak rules so that IF you have to read aloud the bill, cause someone asked for it to kill a bill, you can have SEVERAL DOZEN different pages read aloud ‘at the same time’ by legislators to speed up the process.

    –Ben

  • Paul McCluskey

    There is no doubt that the filibuster has to be eliminated, and the main argument against it is the constitution. While the filibuster is not unconstitutional, since the constitution gives each house the right to set its own rules, it is ANTI-constitutional. The United States is a federal republic (leave the term “democracy” to describe the process, not the form, of government.) The Senate was created to protect the rights of STATES with smaller populations from the power of those with greater populations. It does not exist to protect the minority PARTY. The constitution has nothing to do with political parties, and George Washington warned about them in his farewell address as strongly as Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex in his. The Senate, representing the states, and the House, representing the people, is what makes the USA a republic with a federal government. The filibuster essentially gives an individual or a small group the power to disable the government. That is not what the framers of the constitution had in mind, and true conservatives, if there are any, should be the first and loudest in calling for the elimination of the filibuster.

  • Peter T

    Yes, filibuster rules should be changed, but the minority should keep the right to some debate, to force bills into the wide open: a minority of senators should be able to extend the debate after each amendment but not indefinitely, for example, 40 votes for an extra week, 45 votes for an extra two weeks, 50 votes for an extra month, then vote! No senator, however, should be able to act anonymously: if a senator places a hold on anything, it must be openly and needs to be justified on the floor.