Thursday, February 11, 2010

An Effort at Filibuster Reform

Two Democratic Senators, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, have introduced a proposal to reform the filibuster, which allows 41 Senators to prevent a bill or a Presidential nomination from coming to a vote. As the Washington Monthly explains:

If approved, the measure would not do away with extended debate altogether. Harkin proposes a new procedural model: the first go-around, the minority could demand a 60-vote majority, as is the case now. But if 60 votes aren't there to end debate, a week or so later, 57 votes could bring the bill to the floor for a vote. If 57 votes aren't there, it drops again and again, and after a month or so, a bare majority could approve cloture.
Because adopting this proposal would itself require 67 votes, the chances of passage seem remote. But the proposal may provide a focus for the ongoing debate over gridlock in the Senate.

Update: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the assistant majority leader, has endorsed the Harkin-Shaheen effort. A new poll shows that most Americans also would like to scrap the filibuster. But Majority Leader Harry Reid has poured cold water on the idea. Republicans, who supported reform in 2005 when they were in the majority, are also opposed, calling the proposal a "dumb" idea.

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