The Senate rule that requires 60 votes to pass every bill is the single biggest reason for gridlock in Washington. Just 40 Republicans in the Senate can force their will on the other 60 Senators including the 55 Democrats. They use the filibuster to obstruct everything.
Hopes for filibuster reform were dashed earlier this year when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) blocked efforts of Democrats to change the rules to stop this anti-democratic practice. Since the Democrats took control of the Senate, Republicans have used the filibuster to kill over 400 bills even though those bills were supported by more than a majority of members of the Senate.
Reid made a deal with the devil to block reform
Reid made a deal with the devil to stop his own party from fixing this travesty. He made a “handshake” agreement with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that Republicans would not abuse the filibuster if Reid would not allow Democrats to change the rules.
The sulfur smell was not gone from Reid’s hands after that handshake before McConnell and minority Republicans broke that insincere promise. They have used the filibuster on nearly everything since that fateful handshake.
Republicans used the filibuster to block the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary for three weeks before they relented. Just Wednesday, Republicans used the filibuster to block two of President Obama’s nominees. They blocked confirmation of a Judge Halligan to the Appeals Court, and nominee for Director of the CIA. Most of Obama’s judicial nominees have been blocked by filibuster over the last 5 years.
According to "Roll Call", Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said that it may be time to reopen debate on filibuster abuse by obstructionist Republicans.
“We have tried at the beginning of this Senate session to avoid this kind of filibuster confrontation. The last several years we have had over 400 filibusters — a record number of filibusters in the Senate,” Durbin said. “I hate to suggest this, but if this is an indication of where we’re headed, we need to revisit the rules again. We need to go back to it again. I’m sorry to say it because I was hopeful that a bipartisan approach to dealing with these issues would work,” Durbin added.
Everyone but Harry Reid saw this coming. Common Cause President Bob Edger said “We saw this morning another glaring example of anti-democratic rule by a minority in the United States Senate. A bipartisan majority supported this nomination, but a minority barred them from approving her with another filibuster.”
Republicans scoffed at Durbin’s suggestion that reform should be revisited. The Democratic Senators who pushed for reform had no immediate reaction. They are still bleeding from Reid’s sell out.
Still, as Roll Call reported, Durbin feels that the procedural blockades erected on the nominations of both Halligan to the Court and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (who was eventually confirmed when a handful of Republicans declined to continue the filibuster) have left him with serious doubts that the bipartisan agreement on modifying the Senate’s rules is working as intended.
“We had the first filibuster in history of a secretary of Defense nominee, the first,” Durbin said. “And now we follow with this filibuster of this D.C. Circuit nominee. I don’t think we've achieved much in our rules reform. I don’t think our spirit of bipartisanship has shown much in terms of results.”
There is no reason to believe that Durbin will follow through. There is a slime to none chance that Harry Reid will allow Democrats to revisit the filibuster mid-session. Furthermore there is no assurance that 51 of the 55 Democrats (including the two Independents that caucus with them) would vote for reform. Changing the rules by 51 votes is the “nuclear” option and it would be precedent setting.
Meanwhile, the will of American voters is being blocked by obstructionist Republicans with the assistance of Senator Reid.