The Gazette Editorial Board
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 “motion to proceed” (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.
That’s 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 don’t think it’s wise to do away with the filibuster process entirely. It’s supposed to slow down legislation to ensure ample debate and protect the minority party from being steamrollered. That’s a good thing, especially given that the House doesn’t have such a rule.
But the severe degree of gridlock in Congress these days dictates that something’s 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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