Obvious to most observers, the current Senate rule is obstructing the business of the people1 and needs to be changed.
Barry Friedman and Andrew Martin have a suggestion:
During the 1960s, the Senate was frozen by lengthy filibusters over civil rights legislation. When, in the mid-’70s, that tactic once again threatened to bring the Senate to a standstill, Robert Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who was the majority whip, invented a dual-track system. This change in practice allowed the majority leader — with the unanimous consent of the Senate or the approval of the minority leader — to set aside whatever was being debated on the Senate floor and move immediately to another item on the agenda.
The result of tracking? No more marathon debate sessions that shut down the Senate. While one bill is being “filibustered,” business can continue on others.
Today a “filibuster” consists of merely telling the leadership that 41 senators won’t vote for a bill. Worse, any single senator can put a “hold” on anything, indefinitely, for any reason. Not only has it become easier to “filibuster,” but tracking means there are far fewer consequences when the minority party or even one willful member of Congress does so, because the Senate can carry on with other things.
[Click to continue reading Op-Ed Contributors – A One-Track Senate – NYTimes.com]
Harry Reid could end this ridiculous practice this afternoon if he wanted to.
Because dual-tracking is a Senate practice, not a formal rule, the majority leader, Harry Reid, could end tracking at any time. By doing so, the Democrats would transform the filibuster and recover their opportunity to govern effectively.
And the reason the Democratic Senators have not taken this step already is? I have no idea why not, what’s the downside? If changing the rules makes Harry Reid quake in his boots, perhaps he can try it out for a few months, with the option to bring back the dual-track rules…
The new-school filibuster would preserve minority rights in the Senate, while imposing significant costs on obstructionist members, changing the calculus that causes today’s logjam. Stuck on the Senate floor, filibustering senators couldn’t meet with lobbyists or attend campaign fund-raising events; they couldn’t do much of anything, really, until their filibuster ended.
- or whoever the Senators purport to being representatives for. Lobbyists? Chamber of Commerce? Special interest groups? Whatever [↩]