November 28, 2012
By Brian Darling
The current push to reform the filibuster is merely a partisan power grab.
The Senate does not have a Senate's rules deficiency, but a serious breakdown in comity between the parties. The majority party is trying to change the rules so that they can cut the minority party out of the deliberative process completely. It was wrong when Republicans discussed it in 2005, and it's wrong for Democrats to try in the next Congress.
The Senate has a long history of extended debate and unlimited amendments to legislation. Our Founding Fathers envisioned a House of Representatives to represent the will of the people and the United States Senate to represent the interests of the States. Also, the House has members elected every two years and the Senate has members with staggered terms every six years. The Senate, unlike the House, is a continuing body with rules that continue from Congress to Congress.
What Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to do is to toss aside the idea that the Senate is a continuing body so he can use brute force to change the Senates rules on a party line vote. Under Reid's leadership, amendments have been blocked as a means to marginalize rank-and-file members of both caucuses. Any change to limit the minority party's right to filibuster legislation or nominations would further aggrandize power in the majority leader's office. This would severely limit debate and further limit opportunities for members to offer amendments contrary to the long history of the Senate.
There are some "filibuster reform" ideas on the table, including Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley, Tom Harkin, and Tom Udall. Yet those changes will cause more partisanship, not less. It will allow Reid to use party line votes to further the Obama agenda without sufficient opportunities for all members of the Senate to fully debate and amend legislation.
I agree with Reid's statement in 2006 when he argued, "I am going to do everything I can to preserve the traditions and rules of this institution I love." I also agree with then-Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois when he said in 2005: "If the majority chooses to end the filibuster, if they choose to change the rules and put and end to democratic debate, then the fighting, the bitterness, and the gridlock will only get worse."
First appeared in US News & World Report's "Debate Room."
Senior Fellow for Government Studies
Read More >>
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 200,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2014, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973