Monday, April 27, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Is it time to reform the filibuster?

By
From page A8 | December 04, 2012 |

When the Senate reconvenes at the beginning of the year, Democratic majority leader Harry Reid is promising to change the rules to make it more difficult to use the filibuster – a parliamentary tactic that lets a few senators keep the majority from passing bills and doing other business.

Reid and other Democrats say filibuster abuse has brought Senate business to a standstill. Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell and his allies say the filibuster ensures bills that do pass have broad support.

Who is right? Should the filibuster be fixed or fired? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

Joel Mathis

The Founding Fathers would have hated the filibuster.

Sure, they gave the Senate the permission to write its own rules, and yes, they created a checks-and-balances form of government to ensure government didn’t overstep its bounds. But the Founders created the Constitution because they wanted an energetic government and they didn’t want a few naysayers obstructing that energy.

Listen to Alexander Hamilton, writing in The Federalist Papers against the discarded notion that two-thirds of states be required to approve federal legislation – giving a one-third minority of states veto power over such bills. “Two thirds of the people of America could not long be persuaded . . . to submit their interests to the management and disposal of one third,” he wrote, adding: “We forget how much good may be prevented, and how much ill may be produced, by the power of hindering the doing what may be necessary.”

The situation Hamilton reviled isn’t so different from the modern Senate, where 60 out of 100 votes must be mustered to pass any legislation of consequence. Which means about two-thirds has been forced to submit to the management of one-third.

Elsewhere in the Federalist, James Madison wrote against another filibuster-like trick to block legislation: Congressmen simply didn’t show up for votes they didn’t like, preventing a quorum to pass legislation. Madison hated the idea of that technique: “It would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority,” he wrote. But that is precisely what happens in the Senate.

The proposed reforms wouldn’t end the filibuster, but filibustering would be harder. Senators would actually have to show up, give speeches and make votes to block legislation. They’d have to do their job, in other words. That’s not unreasonable.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable, in fact, to ban filibusters outright but that won’t happen. Just remember: The Founders would have hated the filibuster. They were right.

Ben Boychuk

Republicans are fighting vigorously to maintain the filibuster as a check on a liberal Senate majority. Maybe this is the wrong fight to pick.

A few years ago, Republicans argued that a minority of Democrats exploited the filibuster to block President George W. Bush’s judicial nominations. Some conservative legal scholars even made a compelling case that the Democrats’ judicial filibusters were flatly unconstitutional. After all, the Constitution gives the Senate the power of “advice and consent.” But in the past decade “advice and consent” has hardened into a posture of “obstruct and delay.”

The Republicans were correct when they threatened to use the “nuclear option” against the Democrats and change Senate rules that make the filibuster a cheap and easy tactic of obstruction. Today, the filibuster is a monster. It shouldn’t matter who’s in charge.

Not that it hasn’t been pleasing to watch McConnell expose Reid as a rank hypocrite over the past week. McConnell, who is no slouch when it comes to exploiting Senate rules, has been reading Reid’s formerly pious defenses of the filibuster into the record.

The Senate is supposed to be a more collegial body than the House of Representatives, where simple majority rule prevails. And goodness knows, rules are important. But rules are also made to be broken, especially when the rules no longer make sense.

Conservatives may balk at ending the filibuster. Think of the insane bills Reid and the Democrats could usher along. Imagine the terrible judges they could confirm to lifetime appointments on the federal appellate courts.

That’s true. But Democrats would no longer be able to blame Republicans for obstructing their agenda. Instead, they would be compelled to defend their liberal voting records.

Reid apparently believes, against all reason, experience and good sense, that Republicans will never again have a majority in the Senate. Grant the Democrats their wish, end the filibuster and let them take the consequences.

Ben Boychuk ([email protected]) is associate editor of City Journal. Joel Mathis ([email protected]) is a writer in Philadelphia. Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/benandjoel.

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • rkw895December 03, 2012 - 6:03 pm

    Great topic; more people need to get interested in reforms. Boychuk and Mathis typically provide "point-counterpoint," but they agree here. That shows how bad our most recent experience with the filibuster rule, more formally known as the cloture rule. Both make good points, but all directed to ending the abuses and overuse of the rule. And Boychuk makes a particularly good point when he notes that if the majority doesn't rule, then there is no one to hold accountable for legislation; the majority can rightly blame the minority for forcing legislation to be blocked or watered down to ineffectiveness. Let the majority rule and then defend their record at the time the proper check on legislation occurs: elections.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Paint the Town Purple; and Roxie

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

 
White minister fought for civil rights in the South

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

Farmers markets herald return of summer

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
City Coach hosts first block party

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Bid Corderos Park, city staff recommends

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

Denim and Diamonds fundraiser set May 16

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Crash claims life of Concord teen

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Biz Buzz: NorthBay offers extended hours for primary care

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: B7, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Biz Buzz: Retail store helps those with autism

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B7

Biz Buzz: Committee schedules contractors breakfast

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: B7

 
Biz Buzz: Budweiser kicks off new parks campaign

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B7

Biz Buzz: Dutch Bros. plans ALS fundraiser

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B7

 
Biz Buzz: Company schedules pasta class

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B7

 
.

US / World

Picture it: A 1,000-year exposure showing a changing Earth

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Fighting rages in Yemen’s 3rd-largest city, strikes continue

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Mountaineers, guides stream from Everest after avalanche

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Putin accuses US of supporting separatists in Russia

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Death toll in Nepal quake rises to more than 3,200

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Late spring complicates already perilous amphibian migration

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Quake agony revealed quietly on trip from Nepal airport

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Corinthian Colleges to shut down all 28 remaining campuses

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
No time to lose: Global response to Nepal quake gears up

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Japan’s prime minister goes to US to showcase close ties

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Israel says airstrike on Syrian border targeted militants

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Family, friends in Baltimore mourn death of arrested man

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
‘Batman’ killer studied brain disorders before mass murder

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Image from the quake: Heavy damage in Nepal ancient city

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
.

Living

Today in history: Monday, April 27, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 27, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Parenting: How to set boundaries on screen time

By The Washington Post | From Page: B5

 
Horoscope: April 28, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

Horoscope: April 27, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

 
My husband doesn’t want me to redecorate home he had with first wife

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7

.

Entertainment

TVGrid April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
TVGrid April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

.

Sports

Warriors confident after sweep of Pelicans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Giants-Rockies game postponed by rain

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Motorcycle rider from Livermore killed in Nevada race

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Billy Andrade and Joe Durant win Legends of Golf

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Cavs sweep Celts as James scores 27 in 101-93 victory

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

It’s here: Fight week begins with Pacquiao caravan to Vegas

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
American Pharoah completes final pre-Kentucky Derby workout

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Newgarden claims first IndyCar Series win not far from home

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Justin Rose wins in New Orleans for 7th PGA Tour title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Wall, Beal lead Wiz past Raptors 125-94 in Game 4 for sweep

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Paul, Clippers even series with 114-105 win over Spurs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Ko wins Swinging Skirts for 2nd straight year

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

.

Obituaries

Sandra King

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Janis Ruth (Sefzik) Skinner

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Elizabeth Cepeda

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Kirk Noonan

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

.

Comics

Wizard of Id April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Garfield April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baby Blues April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Zits April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Rose is Rose April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Dilbert April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C. April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Blondie April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Bridge April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Cryptoquote April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Word Sleuth April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Crossword April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku April 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
For Better or Worse April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Zits April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Frank and Ernest April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Peanuts April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Dilbert April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Baby Blues April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Sally Forth April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

B.C. April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Garfield April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Beetle Bailey April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Blondie April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Get Fuzzy April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Pickles April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Wizard of Id April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baldo April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Rose is Rose April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Bridge April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Crossword April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Cryptoquote April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Word Sleuth April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Sudoku April 27

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7