Uncommon Sense

May 30, 2013

Here Is How to Fix the Filibuster Rule

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 6:13 am
Tags: , , , ,

I understand the allure of the Filibuster Rule; it constitutes a protection from what is called the “tyranny of the majority,” in effect, when one of the two parties in our two-party system has a temporary majority in Congress (history shows us all majorities are temporary), they are then able to push through legislation that is hurtful to the minority. And when it is was used sparingly, typically only on landmark legislation, it served that role. But here’s the thing, how can a rule be described as protecting the rights of a minority party when that party has a majority in the other house of Congress? Does not having control of one whole house of Congress constitute enough protection for that party’s rights?

“Does not having control of one whole house of Congress
constitute enough protection for that party’s rights?

 Currently Senate Rules allow for a change from a 50+% vote to enact legislation (or even to call for a vote) to a 60+% vote at any time for any reason by any senator. (A presidential veto can change the rules even more, requiring a 67% majority in both houses to over ride a veto.) But these rules have allowed one party to change divided government into one party control of Congress. By filibustering everything in sight, the Republican Party has a majority in the House and an effective majority of only 40+% in the Senate, resulting in nothing getting through Congress of which it does not fully approve. When the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, the Filibuster Rule, used willy-nilly, gave Republicans effective control of the Senate. So, the Filibuster Rule gives us divided government when we have majority government and majority government when we have divided government.

To fix this problem, the Filibuster Rule in the Senate should only apply when one party controls both houses of Congress and it should only apply to the minority party.

It is tempting to say it should apply only apply when one party controls both houses of Congress and the White House, but that wouldn’t respect the separation of powers in the Constitution. This way, there would be true protection of minority rights and we would avoid what we have now, which effectively constitutes a “tyranny of the minority.”

 

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