Fix filibuster, but after fiscal cliff
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. suggested last week that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was “kicking over a hornet’s nest” by talking about changing Senate filibuster rules. The Republican was right, but it’s a nest that’s needed kicking for decades.
Senators in the minority party — including Reid when he was in that position — generally oppose changing the filibuster rule back to where it stood before 1961. Back then, senators actually had to stand and talk to block legislation from moving. Gradually the rule was modified until, in 1975, it was changed to require a simple “cloture vote” of 60 senators to close debate and move legislation ahead.
The rule was not widely abused until recent years. Increasingly, whatever party is in the minority now merely threatens a filibuster; without 60 votes, the majority can’t pass a cloture motion. The problem with changing the rule back to the stand-and-talk option is that rule changes need 60 votes, too.