Senate Republicans have abused the filibuster in an unprecedented way, crippling the Senate from enacting needed reforms and preventing the majority from carrying out their electoral mandate.
I was a senator for 36 years. I got there when I was 29 years old. So I’ve been through seven presidents — eight now. And I’ve never seen a time when the operating norm to get anything passed was a super majority of 60 votes. No matter what — no matter what the bill is, it’s filibustered. It’s required to get 60 votes.
You can’t rule by a super majority. You can’t govern if you require a super majority. And I think it’s getting to the point where it’s been abused, this idea of the filibuster or the threat of extended debate.
And I think the public is taking it out — the — the Congress as a whole, Republicans and Democrats, are — are extremely low on the polls, in the Congress.
Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made a rare public plea to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), urging him to use the budget reconciliation process to pass health care reform. Noting that a “constitutional majority is 51 votes,” Pelosi said the need for 60 “isn’t legitimate in terms of passing legislation”:
“Yes, the filibuster has its place, it may even have its place in health care — it’s a very big issue. But does it have its place on every appointment and every piece of legislation? We have over 200 bills over there that haven’t been taken up. Most of them, 70 percent of them, were passed with over 50 Republican votes in the House.
The GOP’s abuse of the filibuster is unusual. There are now double the number of cloture votes as there were a decade ago, and triple the numbers of 20 years ago. The filibuster does not appear in the Constitution and many believe it would be ruled unconstitutional were the Supreme Court not “extremely shy of challenging the internal workings of Congress.”
Yesterday, in a meeting with President Obama at the White House, top civil rights leaders said Republican obstructionism had hurt African-American communities. National Urban League President Marc Morial told reporters, “Whether you agree with the filibuster or not, it was desgined as an extraordinary measure.” Benjamin Jealous, President of the NAACP, said Democrats “should be trying to do more in the reconciliation process.”
Even Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), a traditionalist who has defended the Senate’s arcane procedures, said Tuesday that the Republicans’ consistent use of the filibuster is “abusive” and “evidence of a dysfunctional institution.”