Senate Republicans won’t end their childish, obstructionist tactics, so it’s time for the grown-ups to step in and return democracy to the upper House of misfits in Washington.
Anyone who thinks the destructive filibuster antics of Senate Republicans during the past four years is just partisan politics as usual hasn’t been paying attention.
Current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, has suffered through 386 Republican filibusters. When former President Lyndon Johnson lead the Senate, he faced one.
The shenanigans have hurt all Americans numerous times by weakening legislation, delaying legislation and essentially and purposefully bringing the government to a halt. While it was clear a band of Senate Republicans intended these antics to end the Obama presidency, that scheme failed. Now it’s time to change the rules.
Even for those who find watching politics in Washington among the least of their worries, it’s been clear during the past few years that the time-honored tradition of filibustering legislation has just gone too far.
Those who vehemently support the Senate filibuster process, who are — at the time of their defense of the process — almost always in the political minority, say it’s a necessary part of checks and balances in the American political system.
It’s not. There are many checks and balances in the complicated American political system, built on the foundation of powers separated by three branches of government. Peculiar to the Senate, rules allow a minority of members to hold up the legislative process by making it impossible to move proposed laws and other measures to the floor for a vote.
Over the years, this filibuster process has been modified several times. The House of Representatives did away with filibuster rules more than 100 years ago. The Senate has pretty much watered down the process since the early 1900s, with changes coming after a period of heavy abuse and obstructionism.
That time has come again. Republicans have unfairly held the Senate hostage for more than four years, resulting in a weakened and unsatisfactory health-care reform law among the long list of measures made worse by allowing partisan temper tantrums.
The timing for any changes here is critical. The new Senate can make rule changes on the first day of business next year with a simple majority, which Democrats still enjoy. It’s critical that they bind together to make clear that the American system of legislation is strengthened by weakening the rules that allow for legislating to come to a complete halt. A more pragmatic set of filibuster rules are better for both parties when they are in charge of the Senate, and when they’re the minority.
What Republicans refused to admit during the past four years is that a large majority of American voters, and a large majority of members of the U.S. House and a large majority of members of the U.S. Senate wanted the changes that Congress undertook. The notion of a filibuster is to slow the process to allow for thorough and thoughtful debate on a measure, not to allow minorities to do an end run on the democratic process and bully the country into getting their way.
Democrats should turn aside temptation to keep rules the way they are in preparation for the day they fall into minority status and hope to use the same tactics to run the country. The Senate must press ahead with filibuster rule changes for the good of every American, and the sooner the better.