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Filibuster wars, again

Posted March 18, 2013, at 7:22 p.m.

Will Senate Democrats give into temptation and smash the filibuster, after all?

The Senate just got through reforming some of its arcane — but intensely disputed — rules that allow a minority to hold up the country’s business, and TPM’s Brian Beutler reports that already Democrats are thinking of changing them again. But Republicans can easily end talk of further limiting minority rights in the chamber. They just need to start using those rights more responsibly.

In January, Senate leaders struck a bipartisan agreement to snip a few of the chamber’s procedures, with the goal of speeding the legislative process in the perpetually backlogged body. The deal didn’t change much; it mainly restricted the ability of very small minorities to slow proceedings. It did not end the de facto requirement that all major Senate actions attract 60 votes.

Nevertheless, it was important that Democrats avoided the temptation to change the rules unilaterally. They will appreciate the precedent when they are back in the minority.

But since January, Republicans have continued their filibuster abuse. One example: blocking a vote on the nomination of attorney Caitlin Halligan for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Democrats should check their desire to force major reforms on the Senate with party-line votes. But Republicans have got to stop forcing their hand.

The Washington Post (March 17)

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