(Sept. 3) Senate Democrats are on the right track in considering revisions to the U.S. Senate’s filibuster rules rather than elimination of the filibuster altogether. Still, the Senate should make no such procedural reforms unless they are broadly bipartisan.

As our editors have argued, killing the filibuster outright, especially by a party-line vote, is an awful idea. By requiring a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate to pass most ordinary legislation, filibusters ensure minority rights against precipitous action by a bare majority. They also help maintain stability in law while promoting bipartisan consensus-building when the need for change is evident.

Multiple Democratic leaders, eager to grab unprecedented power no matter what the damage to tradition, comity, and systemic stability, have, in recent months, openly pushed the idea of ending filibusters altogether. Apparently, though, the blowback is making them reconsider. The Tuesday Wall Street Journal reported that Democrats are now considering reforms of a less sweeping nature. Good.

One proposal would reduce the filibuster’s threshold from 60 to some smaller supermajority, reduce the amount of time provided for debate, and reinstitute rules that allow the minority party more chances to amend legislation on the Senate floor. For years, I myself have advocated various versions of what once was a mostly Democratic proposal to reduce the needed supermajority percentage incrementally with each cloture vote — thus allowing a minority the chance to delay a bill’s passage long enough to rally more public support, but not permanently kill a bill supported by a determined majority.

Philosophically speaking, that’s the point: We should want at least a sizable minority to have the chance to make a full public case, thus perhaps winning converts to their side, rather than having important legislation rammed through in the heat of political passion. The point isn’t power, but fairness….

[The full column is at this link.]


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