Sunday, August 31, 2014
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 (bboychuk@city-journal.org) is associate editor of City Journal. Joel Mathis (joelmmathis@gmail.com) 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

Nurse-family program helps moms, moms-to-be

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Garamendi ranks 6th on DC paper’s franking list

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1

 
Area service members promote, graduate

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: C4

Fairfield payments to golf courses expected to drop

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: Aug. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A6

Suisun City police log: Aug. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A6

 
.

US / World

Angels use 8 pitchers to beat A’s 2-0, extend lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
.

Opinion

Thanks to Tomato Alley volunteers

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
No justice, peace without effort

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Faison identified location properly

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
.

Living

1 God, 2 faiths, a marriage

By The Associated Press | From Page: D2

 
Utah approves winery in town with polygamous sect

By The Associated Press | From Page: D2

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: C5

 
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: D6

Wilder memoir to give gritty view of prairie life

By The Associated Press | From Page: D6

 
Publisher acquires Robin Williams biography

By The Associated Press | From Page: D6

Amazon starts selling physical books in Brazil

By The Associated Press | From Page: D6

 
.

Sports

Prep football preview: Vacaville still team to beat in MEL

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Gordon says Stewart could run strong in Atlanta

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Peavy takes no-hitter into 8th of Giants’ 3-1 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Suzann Pettersen tied for Portland Classic lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Bob Tway shoots 63 for share of Calgary lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
With heavy heart, Kuchar hovers around the lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Isner loses to Kohlschreiber in US Open 3rd round; Serena advances

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Bocce Federation League results

By Daily Republic | From Page: B3

Bouhanni wins 8th Vuelta stage, Valverde leads

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Fighter War Machine extradited on assault charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3, 1 Comment

Timberwolves have record week after trading Love

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Schumacher wins Traxxas Nitro Shootout

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Kevin Harvick dominates to win Atlanta Nationwide

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
No. 11 Stanford routs UC Davis 45-0 in opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

College football Top 25

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Raiders cut Little, Ross to get to 53

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Champ Bailey, Michael Sam among NFL cuts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
Jonathan Martin makes 49ers’ 53-man roster

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

US dominates Finland 114-55 in basketball worlds

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Ferguson fallout: A call for police ‘body cams’

By The Associated Press | From Page: C1

 
Earthquake insurance shunned by vast majority of Californians

By Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service | From Page: C1

Startups offer banking for smartphone users

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

 
.

Obituaries

Lois C. Clark

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Hazel Gertrude Wamsley

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Jerry Lee Trammell

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 5 Comments

 
.

Comics