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The Mechanics
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IL-SEN Fri Feb 12 2010

Durbin Takes On The Filibuster

Senator Durbin has jumped on the reform-the-filibuster bandwagon. According to Greg Sargent:

The Harkin proposal would officially amend the process by which a filibuster is broken, allowing a four-step process that could eventually allow it to be broken by a majority vote. The first vote would require 60 votes to break the filibuster, followed by motions requiring 57, 54, and finally, 51 votes.

The key is that Durbin is apparently playing an active role in backing the Harkin effort. A senior leadership aide tells me Durbin is "in talks with a number of other Democratic senators regarding possible changes to Senate rules."

Sargent notes out a few important points. One is that Durbin's support gives the Amendment a great deal more gravity. Another is that the Amendment will probably still fail since it requires 67 votes and no party has an easy time to getting 60 senators to vote on anything these days. What's important though (which Sargent also mentions) is that Harkin and Durbin are trying at all because it calls to attention how really horrible the filibuster is.

I'm all for compromise and agreement but the filibuster as it is now doesn't do that. Instead, it gives the minority a great deal of influence over a bill that the majority wants. If there are 58 senators voting for something and the other 42 are against it that bill will see significant revisions before it passes at all. That, of course, comes after the interparty compromises that take place so that all the liberals and conservatives of either party are on board. Clearly the filibuster needs to go.

 
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TheSquire / February 13, 2010 2:05 PM

OR they could introduce the new filibuster rules at the start of the next session of congress, when the rules for the session are voted in. As the filibuster exists only in the rules of the senate, voting in the changed rules would require a simple majority of 51. I'm amazed they didn't do it when the most recent session started in January.

Daniel / February 13, 2010 9:09 PM

I wasn't aware that was possible. It reinforces my opinion that the real obstruction to abolishing the filibuster doesn't come from just Republicans, it's Democrats too. Members of both parties want it to stay because they know that one day they'll be in the minority again and really need it.

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