GOP leadership weighs filibuster rule changes in Senate

Annoyed with seeming irresolvable partisanship and pressured by fellow GOP senators, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is exploring revisions to Senate procedural rules to remove barriers to bills on the Senate floor.

McConnell’s precise aim for any modifications is the filibuster rule.

McConnell’s presumed target is Senate Rule XXII, a rule adopted in 1917 to enact debate-ending cloture which was set a 2/3rds “present and voting” members.  In 1975, it was permuted to lower the number of senators required to empower cloture to 3/5ths of senators “duly chosen and sworn.”

A common tack to delay pending legislation by allowing extended debate to avert a vote, the filibuster has been harnessed by the Democrats in the upper chamber to prevent Mr. Obama from exercising a veto.  60 votes are needed to end a filibuster.

In taking the first step to analyze re-structuring of the procedural rules, McConnell has created a special task force and enlisted Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO), Senator James Lankford (R-OK), Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) to furnish recommendations.

“We’re going to take a serious look at whether Senate rules ought to be changed in order to make the Senate work more effectively,” Alexander stated.

Senator Lankford added:

“At times, the rules and practices of the Senate have left Americans and members of the Senate deeply frustrated. Senate systems that should serve the nation are currently blocking debate and slowing progress, instead of promoting it.” 

Who does the Senate serve if the rules are changed?

Doing away with long-standing rules reflects an inability to lead.

When Senator Harry Reid was Senate Majority Leader, he completely shut down the chamber for two years to thwart legislation from landing on Mr. Obama’s desk and prevented a presidential veto.  An unappealing tactic, but Reid abided by the rules of the Senate.

Now with both chambers under GOP control, the Republicans are striving for a tilted playing field.

While it is unlikely the Founding Fathers envisioned the deep partisan bitterness which pervades today’s political discourse, they framed the Constitution to prevent one party or branch of government from achieving primacy through chicanery even in times of national crisis.

Instead of submitting to pressure to meddle with rules, perhaps Mr. McConnell should exercise some leadership, or maybe McConnell is not suited for a leadership role.


[The Hill] [Photo courtesy]