Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Are changes to Senate rules on the horizon?

Via digby at Hullabaloo, all of the Democratic Senators returning for the next turn are looking to change some of the Senate's rules.

Among the chief revisions that Democrats say will likely be offered: Senators could not initiate a filibuster of a bill before it reaches the floor unless they first muster 40 votes for it, and they would have to remain on the floor to sustain it. That is a change from current rules, which require the majority leader to file a cloture motion to overcome an anonymous objection to a motion to proceed, and then wait 30 hours for a vote on it.
“There need to be changes to the rules to allow filibusters to be conducted by people who actually want to block legislation instead of people being able to quietly say ‘I object’ and go home,” said Sen.Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

I've never been totally clear on whether the Republicans' ability to obstruct bills this term with the mere threat of a filibuster was due to any actual rules of the Senate or due to the simple failure of the Democrats to force them to get up there and actually filibuster.  I apparently need to learn more about cloture.

This year, McCaskill lined up backing from more than two-thirds of senators for elimination of secret holds, which allow a senator to block action on a bill or nomination anonymously. She said that Democrats will also push plans to force senators who place holds to do it publicly. 

I'll be happy if the rules on holds are reformed.  I'm not aware of any actually good reason for them (not that I've really looked around), and the idea that Senators should be able to place them anonymously seems indefensible.

How would you like to see the Senate rules reformed?

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