November 27, 2012 by David K. Sutton
Eliot Spitzer – Number of the Day: Senate Filibuster Reform
Since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, Republicans have used the filibuster at an unprecedented rate. Take a look at this chart over at The Atlantic. There is no question filibuster reform is needed as both Democrats and Republicans have increasingly relied upon it when in the minority. But Republicans have taken reckless use of the filibuster to new heights since becoming the minority in the Senate in 2006.
Talk about process reform can be boring. But sometimes process matters, which brings us to our number of the day: 51. This is the simple majority of votes that should be required to pass bills in the Senate. It will also be, for a very brief window in January, the number of votes needed to change Senate rules about the filibuster so that 51 senators can, in fact, get something done. If the rule isn’t changed before that window closes, senators in the minority will be able filibuster every bill, as well as any effort to change the filibuster — meaning that Democrats will need 60 votes for reform, not 51.
Will Harry Reid and the Democratic majority of 55 senators seize the moment? Messages out of the Senate seem mixed. Only two areas of reform are being talked about widely. First, ending filibusters that prevent debate from even starting. Second, actually requiring senators to go out on the floor and filibuster, not just threaten to. But that’s not enough. Something much more fundamental is needed. Although the filibuster should be eliminated altogether, at a minimum the number of votes needed to end one should be dropped to 55 and certain types of votes — such as nominations by the president — should be blocked from vulnerability to the filibuster.
If Republicans don’t like it, they have only themselves to blame. They are the ones who abused the filibuster and brought governance to a grinding halt.
– Eliot Spitzer