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Udalls, Bennet To Seek Filibuster Rule Change Tomorrow

10:53 AM ET, 01/ 4/2011
As the Durango Herald's Joe Hanel reports:

Colorado's U.S. senators have lined up with fellow Democrats for a one-shot chance Wednesday to change Senate rules that allow Republicans to block much of President Barack Obama's agenda...

Various filibuster rules require 60 yes votes out of the body of 100 in order to pass a bill or even debate it. A single senator can also block debate of a bill or confirmation of the president's nominees.

Sen. Michael Bennet called for reform of Senate rules during his election campaign last year. He is pushing for a vote Wednesday, when the new Senate convenes, to pass a new set of rules that diminish minority power. Democrats will have a 53-47 advantage in the Senate starting Wednesday.

Sen. Mark Udall also is pushing for approval of a new set of rules drafted by his cousin, New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall.

Democrats have a chance Wednesday to change Senate rules with a simple majority vote, rather than the two-thirds majority it usually takes.

Could have used that in 2009, don't you think? According to Hanel, the rule change sought by Sens. Mark Udall, Tom Udall of New Mexico, and Michael Bennet would stop the ease with which a filibuster can be sustained by mere threats and assertions--requiring opponents to actually show up at the Capitol and speak from the podium, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington style, and be able to produce the 40 required votes to keep a filibuster going on a continuous basis. They also want to end the practice in the Senate of "anonymous holds" on legislation and nominations.

Momentary considerations always make weakening of the filibuster attractive to a narrow majority, though everyone looks at changes like these with an eye toward their own possible minority status someday. But there's an argument that loosening of Senate rules allowing a small group of Senators to stop everything has hurt both parties' rightful agenda in turn--and the public's confidence in government generally. Requiring filibusters to involve effort, like the public assumes they do today, might at least help make sure they're reserved for when really necessary.

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