from an expert in the field:
Senator Tom Harkin (D–Iowa)
To many, The word “filibuster” is inside-Washington speak that seemingly has little bearing on their lives. But the abuse of this Senate rule affects americans in more ways than they could possibly imagine. In the current Congress, despite the worst economic downturn since the Depression, Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block debate on extending unemployment benefits for three weeks. That meant, for countless americans looking for work, the safety net they rely on to provide for their families was not available because of political gamesmanship. Last Congress, Senate Republicans filibustered attempts to debate measures to ensure children are not exposed to unsafe toys, as well as legislation to ensure women are guaranteed equal pay for equal work. The Senate was never intended to operate this way. That is why I have introduced legislation to change the Senate rules with regard to the filibuster. Under my proposal, over an eight-day period, the number of votes needed to end a filibuster would progres- sively decline from the 60 votes needed currently to a simple majority. This would still allow a determined minority to slow down any bill. Senators would have ample time to make their arguments and attempt to persuade the public and a majority of their col- leagues. This protects the minority’s right to full debate, maintaining the very best fea- tures of the U.S. Senate, but it ensures that, at the end of ample debate, the majority would be allowed to act. In 1995, when Democrats were in the minority, I introduced the same proposal. my feeling is that use of the filibuster will only continue to ratchet up unless we break the cycle. The fact is, elections should have consequences. and when a party has been defeated at the polls, that party should not retain the power to prevent the majority from effectively governing. at issue is a fundamental principle of our democracy: rule of the majority in a legisla- tive body. I do not see how we can effectively govern a 21st-century superpower when a minority of just 41 senators can dictate action—or inaction—not just to the majority of senators but to a majority of the american people. This is not democratic. Certainly, it is not the kind of democracy our nation’s founders envisioned and intended. C
from an expert in the field:
aS a memBeR of the house of Representatives who came into Congress with the Republican Revolution of 1994, I chafed at how the filibuster could be used to slow our house-passed initiatives. now, as a senator, I appreciate the filibuster’s true purpose: It is the tool that makes the minority voice in the Senate relevant. The filibuster slows down good and bad ideas. In a nation increas- ingly defined by my-way-or-the-highway-style politics, the filibuster equires competing forces—whether ideological, partisan or regional— to work together to find common ground. Those who say the filibuster has outlived its usefulness need only to consider one exam- ple, the Gang of 14, to realize that even the most partisan and divisive issues in american politics can still be overcome. In 2005, ideological interests on the left and right geared up for battle over the unprece- dented filibustering of President Bush’s judicial nominees. But before the showdown could take place, the Gang of 14—seven Republicans and seven Democrats representing all ideo- logical and geographical areas of the country—came together to find a pathway forward. Drafts of our compromise were prepared, discarded, rewritten and circulated again. on at least two occasions, I thought negotiations had broken down and would not be put back together. as the clock ticked toward a final vote on curtailing the ability to filibuster, we finally came to agreement. no senator, party or ideological interest got everything it wanted. Looking back, I believe the Gang of 14 represented the best of the Senate as an institution and embodied the roles and responsibilities of its members. There are days I wish we didn’t have to get 60 votes, as I have seen my own proposals come to a screeching halt at the hands of the filibuster. But agreement on complex issues, whose solution will affect every facet of american life, should be hard to achieve. Fifty plus one is a good way to elect people to office. Requiring national consensus via the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to end debate remains the best way to pass legislation that brings about major change in our country. Simply stated, the larger the vote, the bigger the buy-in needed. C
Senator lindsey Graham (r–south carolina)
june deba Te reSul TS: should wild animals be used for our entertainment? No 74% Yes 26%
may deba Te reSul TS: should judges be elected? yeS: 34% no: 66% Percentage reflects votes received by May 31, 2010. results may reflect Debate being picked up by blogs.
Percentage reflects votes
received by June 17, 2010.
july 2010 The Costco Connection 17
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