The new Congress has convened and it is time for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to fish or cut bait.
Reid has promised to push through reforms on how the filibuster is used in the Senate and every American who hates the gridlock that Congress has gotten itself into ought to support him on that.
There's even a bipartisan proposal to do just that. Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan, and John McCain, Republican from Arizona have offered a rules change that generally follows the recommendation of No Labels, a bipartisan group working to encourage a renunciation of the hyperpartisanship that has created the gridlock.
The No Labels proposal has two parts:
Require Real (Not Virtual) Filibusters: If senators want to halt action on a bill, they must take to the floor and hold it through sustained debate.
End Filibusters on Motions to Proceed: Today, filibusters can be used both to prevent a bill from reaching the floor for debate (motion to proceed) and from ultimately being passed. If the Senate simply ended the practice of filibustering motions to proceed, it could cut the number of filibusters in half and allow more issues to be debated and voted on by the full Senate.
Republicans, who are currently in the minority in the Senate, argue that a rules change would require a super-majority vote. Democrats claim that each new Congress starts afresh and is not bound by the rules of the previous Congress, and so a mere 51 votes would be all that would be needed to make a change. The U.S. Constitution is silent on this issue. Nor does it mention the filibuster.
What makes the Republican argument pathetic is the certainty that if they were the ones in the majority they would be making the same claim the Democrats now make. And you can bet the Democrats, in that situation, would be making the same argument now made by the Republicans.
A pox on both their houses. The reform is needed. Let's hope Harry Reid has the cojones to do it.