EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


December 13, 2012

Column: End the filibuster and restore democracy to the Senate

When is a majority not a majority? Answer: when it is a vote in the U.S. Senate.

There are 100 members in the upper chamber of Congress, as anyone beyond the third grade should know. That means a majority is 51. Right? Wrong!

Because the Senate makes up its own rules, the number of votes it takes to adopt nearly almost any legislation beyond simple housekeeping measures is 60. That’s because of a clearly undemocratic process called the filibuster. It allows a handful of opponents to thwart any or all of the important stuff Congress is supposed to do because of ideological or political differences or out of just plain spite. This device can only be shut off (they call that cloture) by reaching the 60-vote plateau.

Now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to change the rules and a small group of his fellow Democrats and some outside folks have asked the courts to rule whether the filibuster is constitutional. For us laymen, it seems a fair question, although minority Republicans who have been effectively blocking key votes on controversial legislation are dedicated to making certain it doesn’t get answered and nothing changes at least until they somehow win back control of the Senate.

Before we come down too hard on the GOP, it has to be noted that when Democrats were in the minority, they felt about the same way as the Republicans do today. Without the power to alter the mathematics of a simple majority, how would the minority ever be anything but a whining bunch of naysayers without any clout?

For Americans who have been suffering through the legislative turmoil of recent decades not being able to count on much of anything important, knowing that something could get done for the money they have been paying the largest bozo club on the planet would be a huge relief. The gridlock produced by the filibuster is as bad as (actually worse than) any traffic jam here caused by an unpredicted blizzard at rush hour when all the fear-maddened drones exit their government offices seeking escape. Besides, the filibuster lasts a lot longer and does far more damage.

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