Filibuster reform is overdue

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: July 24 2012 | 12:01 am - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 10:07 pm in

The Gazette Editorial Board

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, dropped somewhat of a bombshell last week when he promised that, if President Obama was re-elected and the Democrats retained a majority in the Senate, he would reform the Senate filibuster rule.

That vow may seem a bit suspect. While Republicans recently have been most often playing the filibuster card to block legislation, Reid frequently used it when the Democrats were in the minority before 2007.

Still, we agree that the filibuster process needs some serious change. Once rarely used, it now is a routine method of obstruction by both parties.

What Reid is talking about is ďmotion to proceedĒ (cloture) votes, which require 60 of the 100 senators to agree to end debate and consider proposed legislation. The filibuster would still exist, but senators would have to be willing to speak for hours or days on end to block a vote.

Thatís one approach to reform. Another, pushed by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, for about two years, would set up a series of several votes that gradually reduce the number needed to proceed, from 60 to a simple majority. A few days between each step would be allowed. That idea has merit, too.

We donít think itís wise to do away with the filibuster process entirely. Itís supposed to slow down legislation to ensure ample debate and protect the minority party from being steamrollered. Thatís a good thing, especially given that the House doesnít have such a rule.

But the severe degree of gridlock in Congress these days dictates that somethingís got to be changed. Regardless of which party emerges as the Senate majority in November, leadership needs to get that done. For the good of the country.

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