Friday, April 23, 2010
The Senate Takes an Inward Look
Members of the US Senate are not, by nature, terribly self analytical.
It's not their fault. Really. They're awesome. Just ask their staff and the lobbyists who make up, between them, 75 percent of Senators' human contact.
So it's noteworthy that the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration ("Senate Rules") is holding a series of hearings designed to assess the current state of the U.S. Senate's filibuster rule, which allows for unlimited debate until "cloture" is invoked. Because a cloture vote requires 60 votes, the minority can, in affect, require that virtually any measure taken up by the Senate require a 60 vote (out of 100 Senators) super majority.
This isn't terribly surprising. At present, Senate Democrats are frustrated with the increased use by the minority Republicans of the filibuster. When the Republicans had control of the Senate, they too were frustrated by the filibuster, and held hearings of their own in 2003.
To the great credit of Chairman Charles Schumer (D-New York), he recognizes that the increased use of the filibuster is something that has occurred "over the last decade" (implicitly acknowledging that it's a bi-partisan problem) and that the best place to begin with is the history of the filibuster. When you really want to understand something, beginning with history is usually the best place to begin. You not only know the "what," but equally importantly, the "why."
I'll be following these hearings, which began yesterday - summarizing and commenting where appropriate.