With Democrats across the board victory yesterday in the Senate, the top priority for Democrats has to be reforming the filibuster. This is more important than anything else as the opening move. Long time people on our side who do not understand this must be made to understand. The filibuster has to either go or be drastically reformed.
Filibuster reform. Stat.
Senator Jeff Merkley hastaken the leadon this issue and circulated an email prior to election outlining his reform plan:
#1) Narrow the Scope:What Merkley outlines are reasonable reforms to make Senators not be able to simply gum up the works on even the most mundane procedures and then go back to their offices. No. Make that impossible on some things, especially nominations to important administration posts and judicial appointments. We've got to be able to move people through. No more ridiculous situations like the Goodwin Liu fiasco.
Eliminate the use of the filibuster on motions to proceed. Blocking deliberation
has little place in a legislative body. If a Senator believes a bill is so deeply
flawed that debate should be suspended, the senator still has the right to move to
table the bill.
#2) Further Narrow the Scope:
We should consider further narrowing the scope. For example, it is worth
debating banning filibusters on amendments since members would still have the
right to filibuster the final vote. It is also worth examining the value of limiting
filibusters on appointing conferees.
#3) Create an Expedited Path for Nominations:
The Senate is failing in its responsibility to “advise and consent” on nominations,
doing extensive damage to the other branches of government. This is an abuse
of its responsibility.
We should consider, therefore, an expedited regular order for nominations. The
regular order for each nominee might still be subject to a filibuster, but only under
the revised filibuster requirements discussed below.
#5) Require filibustering senators to hold the floor:Merkley's plan is an excellent place to begin. But Democrats across the board need to turn up the pressure big time to make sure there is no wavering on filibuster reform.
The public believes that filibustering senators have to hold the floor. Indeed, the
public perceives the filibuster as an act of principled public courage and sacrifice.
Let’s make it so.
Require a specific number of Senators -- I suggest five for the first 24 hours, 10
for the second 24 hours, and 20 thereafter -- to be on the floor to sustain the
filibuster. This would be required even during quorum calls. At any point, a
member could call for a count of the senators on the floor who stand in
opposition to the regular order, and if the count falls below the required level, the
regular order prevails and a majority vote is held.
Several folks have asked how this would work in practice. So here is an
Upon request by a member, the Senate President would make the
“The Sergeant-at-Arms will bar the doors and the Clerk will take
count of all who stand in opposition to the regular order.”
The clerk would then announce:
“All senators who stand in opposition to the regular order will
declare their opposition.”
The President would then report one of the following:
“[#] senators stand in opposition. This fails to meet the number
required to continue the suspension of the regular order. The
regular order is restored and a vote on this [bill/amendment] will be
held, according to the rules, at [time stated].”