Earlier this year, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) delivered an address about conservative obstruction at the Center for American Progress Action Fund titled “Deliberation, Obstruction or Dysfunction? Evaluating the Modern U.S. Senate and its Contribution to American Governance.” At the event, Udall discussed what he called the “Constitutional Option,” which he described as the Senate having the ability to alter its rules with a simple majority vote at the beginning of each Congress. Indeed, with record use of the filibuster in the current Senate, an overhaul of the procedure is needed to prevent further obstruction.
A week and a half ago, Udall conducted an interview with Tikkun Daily’s Lauren Reichelt in which he reiterated his support for changing the rules of Senate procedure. He explained once again that all it takes is for 51 senators to vote for a change in the rules for the Senate to change the filibuster right at the start of the session. He concluded, “Now is the time for rules reform”:
UDALL: The first thing for people to really understand about the Constitutional Option is that people are frustrated with the rules of the Senate and I don’t blame them. The reason they’re frustrated is because when we campaigned and when President Obama campaigned, we were gonna do all these great things, make these great changes, move the nation forward, and that’s not happening as quickly as we would want it to happen. So that’s a critical issue — that we’re not getting the change that people want. And so what the Constitutional Option is about is doing rules reform in the Senate at the beginning of a Congress and the crucial thing is that at the beginning of Congress you can set rules with 51 Senators. You can end the debate and you can adopt new rules. Now is the time for rules reform.
In part two of the interview, Udall used health care as an example of why the filibuster should be changed. He explained that if “we were able to refine the rules and reform the rules, I think we would be getting closer to a public option than the bill we passed.” He concluded that “the real issue here is the Senate should be producing on the change the American people want. And the Senate’s broken now, and so I’m trying to lead out on reform.”
This past summer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told an audience at the Netroots Nation conference that “we’re going to have to change” the filibuster in order to end obstruction. And during a recent appearance on The Daily Show, President Obama also hinted that he’d support overhauling the filibuster, telling host Jon Stewart that he would “love” to not have a 60 vote requirement for ending debate and proceeding to a vote on bills. Their sentiments are in line with 50 percent of Americans, who said in a February 2010 CBS/New York Times poll that the filibuster should be changed (44 percent were opposed). Udall has laid out a path for doing exactly that, and it is up to his fellow legislators to choose to use it.