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Neutralize the Destructive Filibuster; Defang the GOP, Remove Its Poisonous Obstructionism

By       Message Michael Payne       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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Now that the Democratic Party has retained majority control of the U.S. Senate, it is absolutely imperative that its leaders take immediate steps to change the rules that govern the use of the filibuster, mitigating the use of that destructive weapon by the GOP obstructionists. This country simply cannot tolerate four more years of total gridlock in the U.S. Senate. This nation's most critical problems are screaming for solutions and, significantly reducing the obstructive powers of the GOP, will pave the way for that process to begin.

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The Democrats will, once again, be given the opportunity to neutralize the power of the filibuster by amending the rules that currently exist. After the national elections in 2010 the Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, had that brilliant opportunity and failed to seize it. And for that colossal blunder they, as well as the American people, paid a terrible price. It is absolutely astounding that, since 2007, GOP members of the Senate have used the filibuster to stymie or entirely prevent the enactment of legislation a total of 360 times.


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To defang the GOP means that the weapon of obstruction must be removed from their hands. Their ability to obstruct, stall and delay important legislation must be ended. I am sick and tired of watching these arrogant political bullies being allowed to wreak havoc in the Senate. It's time to make them play by new rules and not let them continue to dominate the political discourse through their devious tactics. Enough is enough, end the nonsense and do the work of the people. There are two specific ways by which the Senate Democrats can accomplish this:


1. They can simply change the rule: Changes to the Senate rules are usually subject to a two-thirds, or 67-vote, threshold, but rules also allow changes to be made with the consent of 51 members if they are voted on at the beginning of the Congressional session. There is no question that the Democrats, since they have the majority, could make this change; they and Reid have not taken such action in the past since they feared that, if they did it and Republicans later took control of the Senate, they themselves would be less able to use the filibuster in critical situations. That selfish, negative position can no longer be taken.


2. They can begin to enforce the existing filibuster rules; I believe that the best option is to change the rules so that legislation can be passed with a simple majority vote. But if that is not done, for whatever reason, then it should be absolutely mandatory that if any party, and the Republicans specifically, invoke a filibuster, they must be made to follow the standard Senate rule in which one or more members, in order to oppose and delay legislation, must stand on the Senate Floor for hours on end; just like James Stewart did to make his points in the classic movie, "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington."


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Another contributing factor to the gridlock in the Congress involves the use of a senatorial hold by which it is possible for one senator to initiate a blocking tactic to prevent legislation from reaching the Senate floor. There have been many moves to either abolish the hold rules or to reform the process but all have failed because it is so difficult to get members of either party to agree on just how to do it; they have the great concern that it will somehow backfire on their own agenda. So this controversial practice should be studied by Democrats to determine how exactly it could be altered or abolished.


Majority Leader Harry Reid has already stated that he intends to change the filibuster rule at the start of the next session of Congress. He knows that if he doesn't that he, his colleagues and the president will spend the next four years accomplishing nothing. Reid had been poised to do just that in 2010 but, when the time came, he backed off and we all know what transpired thereafter. This time he has no choice; he must initiate this rule change and, if he fails to follow through, he must be replaced by a Majority Leader who will.


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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on Opednews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)

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