My friends over at Crooks and Liars have been talking lately about the very strong need to reform the Senate filibuster. Though I agree that there needs to be filibuster reform, we must be very careful in what the final product will be. In short, we need to be careful of what we wish for. Remember, no party holds the majority in the Senate for very long and in 2012, unless the Democrats show some real backbone in the next 23 months, the Republicans could once again be the majority party in the Senate.
The filibuster, as originally envisioned, was to guarantee a voice to the minority and minority views within the Senate. It is more than conceivable that the Democrats will once again be in the minority and it will need the filibuster to stop an ever more radical agenda of the modern Republican Party. But, if we reform the filibuster in such a way as it removes the ability of the minority to effectively halt radical legislation, we have screwed ourselves beyond belief.
Is the filibuster as currently designed abused? Hell yes. All it takes now to block legislation is the mere threat of a filibuster to throw the Senate into a tizzy and require a 3/5ths vote as a procedure. Of course, if the Democratic leadership had some backbone and forced actual filibusters, the abuse would dramatically drop. In fact, the Republicans count on the Democrats to roll over and play dead in regards to filibuster threats.
In my opinion, the only filibuster reform that preserves the minority’s and those who hold a minority view’s ability in the Senate to be heard and doesn’t screw the Democrats over should they be in the minority once again is to rescind the “Byrd Rule”. Any other reforms would severely limit Democratic options should they be in the minority once again, which is very likely in the near future.
Tread lightly in filibuster reform and be very careful what we wish for.