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Senate Filibuster Reform Vote Delayed Until January 22

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Keep your eye on January 22 [1] . Why, dear reader should ask, is that date so special?

Well it seems, that's the date a majority of U.S. Senate Democrats could amend the filibuster rules in the Senate by a mere 51 votes instead of the usual 67 votes needed to change Senate rules.

The next question should be how is this possible since any Senate rules changes must be voted on the opening day of business in the new session?

Well apparently yesterday's opening session of the new Senate didn't actually "end" as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put the day in "recess" thus allowing the first day to "rollover".

So the only thing that actually happened yesterday in the Senate was the swearing in of new members.

According to reports, Democrats who favor the filibuster reform plan of Senator Jeff Merkley, D. Ore., (which would require those who filibuster to actually conduct a non stop talking session, the traditional method of conducting a filibuster, instead of just threatening to filibuster) are going to spend the next two weeks courting reluctant Senate Democrat colleagues to vote on the Merkley plan. Current filibuster rules all but thwart most votes on pending legislation with just the threat of a filibuster.

This latter ploy has been used 112 times in the last session alone by the obstructionist Republican Senate minority where a 60 vote super majority is required to end debate and conduct a vote.

Call it obstructionism or any epithet one can think of but from here it's simply the tyranny of the minority.

Let's be clear; the filibuster is not mentioned in the Constitution and was "implied" as a minority tactic as early as the first Senate session in 1789. The "potential" for a filibuster "sprang into being in 1806 but was never actually employed until 1837 [2] .   It has been revised many times but as it now stands the aforementioned 60 votes are required to end debate. With some 45 Senate Republicans, all it has taken is the mere "threat" of a filibuster that effectively prevents legislation, the nomination of judges, presidential appointees for Cabinet positions and the like from actually being voted on.

So though Merkley's plan doesn't reduce the 60 vote requirement to end debate it does force those contemplating a filibuster to actually filibuster and not just threaten to do it.

As dysfunctional as Congress is generally, not to mention corrupted by the largesse donated to the their campaigns from big moneyed interests that expect a favorable return on their "investment", a Republican dominated House that continually threatens to hold the government hostage and shut it down over the "debt ceiling", the current Senate filibuster rules make that body a stone wall for conducting business unless the minority is coddled and its demands are met.

So let's hope the Senate Democrats will exercise some "mojo" and vote to "reform" the filibuster rules

[1] "You'll Have to Wait 19 Days for a Filibuster Reform Vote", Slate.com, January 3, 2013.

[2] See Wikipedia on early history of the filibuster and its later revisions

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