Monday, January 18, 2010
Is It Time To End The Filibuster?
Is it time to end the filibuster? I say yes!
First a little history. Nothing is said in the Constitution about filibusters. The House and Senate set their own rules and that includes the filibuster. The House doesn't have it. The Senate does, but it can be stopped (cloture) with a vote of 3/5th of the Senate (60 votes).
It wasn't always that way. Initially, both the House and Senate followed the common practice of the time. Debate could be stopped with a simple majority vote. In 1806, the Senate modified their rules and removed the provision to bring a motion to end debate. No other provision was put in place to end debate. Hence the possibility of a filibuster was created. Members could continue to debate without end to block a vote on a bill.
It was first used in the 1830 by Democrats who sought to prevent a Whig-supported bill involving the Bank of the United States from coming to the floor.
In 1917, the Senate (Democratic majority) changed the rules (Rule 22) so that two-thirds of the members of the Senate could vote on “cloture” to end a filibuster and bring votes to the floor. The new rule was first applied in 1919 when the Senate invoked cloture to end a filibuster against the Treaty of Versailles.
In 1959 (Democratic majority), Senate rules were slightly modified to allow for cloture with 2/3 present as opposed to 2/3 of the entire Senate.
In 1975 (Democratic majority), Senate rules were again changed to the current 3/5th of the Senate lowering the number of votes required to end a filibuster from 67 to the current 60.
The filibuster is a rule, not a law. The Senate can do whatever it wants to. I say it is time to go back to a simple majority to end debate. The other option is to put a time limit on debate, but I like the majority vote better.
The Senate is set up to give individual states equal power. Each state get two votes, unlike the House where the number of representatives is based on population. By allowing a minority the power to prevent a vote on a bill gives excessive power to the minority.
It is time to re-balance the scales. The Democrats have been the ones to do it in the past, and they should be the ones to do it now.