Americans have been frustrated on how Congress handles its’ business and it seems that very little, if at all, gets accomplished. The more the two parties don’t agree with each other, the more filibustering goes on in order to slow up action on the floor. However, Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate have reached an agreement on language that will reform filibusters.
They will meet with their respective caucuses Thursday afternoon, according to aides in both parties that spoke with CNN. Yet, some feel that the reform is far too weak to make much of a difference.
Filibusters are actions, such as long speeches, that are meant to stop the legislative assembly from progressing. Both parties have been guilty of using filibusters but the new proposal from Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will propose a list of reforms that limits the use of filibusters as well as streamline other procedures for the purpose of speeding up action on the floor. For the measures to take effect, they would require the support of each party’s caucus and will have to go through a series of floor votes, which might occur later on Thursday.
According to one Senate aide, the proposal offers a compromise that would decrease the number of filibusters allowed while making sure the minority party is allowed votes on some amendments. Instead of allowing filibusters to take place, the proposal allows for two paths the parties can take that can be used to begin debate on the legislation at hand, avoiding filibusters designed to prevent debate from ever taking place.
In the first path, Reid would give permission for two amendments from both parties to be presented, with the warning that if the amendment has no bearing on the legislation being discussed, it would be put to a 60-vote threshold. Where Reid and McConnell agree on measures, the second path would allow votes to overcome filibusters to happen the day after Reid files a procedural petition.
This would take the place of the two-day period currently being used and the change would disallow stalled votes on consensus legislation. The proposal also requires senators who are threatening to use filibusters to approach the Senate floor and voice their concerns. The leaders would work to make sure that any time used to stall votes on bills is actually used in debate. Added in the proposal is limiting debate on some presidential nominations that require Senate approval.
The use of filibusters is a hot topic for both parties. Democrats complain on how minority Republicans deliberately overuse the filibuster in order to block Democratic legislation. They also want to reinstate the requirement that those senators conducting a filibuster must continuously speak on the floor – using a controversial method that would make a change in the Senate rules with needing only 51 votes instead of the customarily required 67.
As for Republicans, they are furious that they might be jammed and argued that using a filibuster is the only leverage they have in order to acquire roll call votes on amendments that routinely denied them by the Democratic Majority. They also say that if Democrats are able to push reforms through on 51 votes – Republicans refer to this as the “nuclear option” – it will destroy any relations between the two parties and most likely lead to massive gridlock in the chamber.
Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan led a bipartisan group of senior members who offered the alternative compromise that eventually became part of McConnell and Reid’s proposal.
Reid said, “We are going to change the way we do business here,” Reid said Wednesday. “We can do it either the easy way or the hard way but it’s going to change.” As of Tuesday, Reid insisted he has the 51 votes needed to pass the reforms if the Republicans are unwilling to agree to a compromise.
Reform is a good thing, so long as it is not weak. Some feel that this latest attempt at reform is not enough and more needs to be done. Justin Green of The Daily Beast feels this reform is far too weak to make much of a difference.
For starters, Reid is still running things and will do so in 2014. Another issue is the use of the filibuster, which is intended to be a great tool of moderation in the legislative branch.
According to Green, it hasn’t been used that way for some time and the longer real reform keeps being put off in replacement of half-baked reforms, the worse things will be and more likely the best parts of our upper chamber are ultimately abandoned.
It’s Do or Die time for the Filibuster
Our ability to reinvest in America, hold Wall Street accountable, strengthen the middle class and fight global warming and climate change hangs in the balance of this filibuster reform debate. So – will filibuster reform pass the Senate in the next couple weeks – and even if it does – will it be enough?
Reid On 113th Congress: Democrats Will Put The Middle Class First
Nevada Senator Harry Reid, speaking to reporters, discusses the principle that will guide Democrats in the 113th Congress.
Filibuster Reform and what it Means for the 113th Congress
Bernie Sanders and Ed Schultz discuss filibuster reform and what it will mean for the 113th congress.