Senate filibuster reform fizzles under ‘bipartisan’ agreement

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

In the end, Senate filibuster reform was so much sound and fury, signifying nothing. The U.S. Senate is so irretrievably broken by the weight of its own archaic rules that it is incapable of reforming itself.

A bipartisan agreement between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell only tinkers around the edges with minor albeit needed reforms, but leaves the undemocratic, and I would argue unconstitutional 60 vote super-majority vote for cloture of debate intact. Senate leaders agree on filibuster changes:

Senate leaders announced a bipartisan deal Thursday to speed up the chamber's work by limiting the use of the filibuster and dropping the confirmation process for about 400 federal agency nominees.

* * *

[The agreement] left intact the minority's right to block some legislation by requiring a 60-vote threshold through a threatened filibuster. But the leaders agreed to repeal the decades-old stalling tactics of secret holds – in which an anonymous senator could slow action on a bill – and the ability to force amendments to be read in their entirety on the floor.

* * *

Perhaps the most fundamental shift, in terms of governance, was the agreement to reduce by one-third the number of federal government positions that require Senate confirmation. The current total stands at more than 1,200 slots, from the secretaries of defense and state to the part-time directors of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

* * *

Although those Democrats did not fully achieve their goal of making it easier to thwart a filibuster – by lowering the number of votes needed to sustain one, among other ways – Reid and McConnell also made a handshake deal to rein in their use of parliamentary maneuvers. McConnell has agreed to rarely use a tactic that forces Reid to hold a vote to break a filibuster on a motion to consider a bill – one that Republicans used 26 times during the 111th Congress in 2009 and 2010, even for bills that eventually would be approved with 80 or more votes. Reid has agreed that he will rarely maneuver to forbid Republicans to offer amendments, something that had become so common that Republicans said the majority leader has smashed modern records.

Both Reid and McConnell agreed that the fundamental principle of requiring a super-majority – 60 votes – to pass a bill must not be touched.

The broad agreement is the most significant change in the chamber's rules in 35 years.

A "handshake deal" between pols? That's the best we can expect from the U.S. Senate? They can't commit to real reforms.

Comments are closed.