Filibuster buster

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin says he will introduce legislation banning filibusters in the U.S. Senate.

The Iowa Democrat says senators have abused unlimited debate to the point that the Senate can’t function, and his measure will allow debate to be cut off by majority vote, the same way most other governing bodies work.

Editorials around the nation supported Harkin’s proposal. In New Hampshire, the Nashua Telegraph said, “In the past decade … the practice has become so commonplace that the threat of a filibuster is sufficient to stall any legislation. We have become a nation in which a super-majority is required to get anything done, contrary to the fundamental concept of majority rule that underlies the Constitution.” The Newark Star Ledger editorial was headlined, “Filibuster, gone rogue: A Senate rule that cripples our democracy.”

Senators no longer have to actually talk on the Senate floor in order to filibuster. They merely register their willingness to filibuster a bill, thereby causing the number of votes needed to enact the bill to automatically rise from 51 to 60, the number required to cut off debate. Democrats in Congress have traditionally opposed the filibuster, but under Nevada Sen. Harry Reid’s leadership they embraced it, making it awkward for them to support Harkin now. The Heritage Foundation mined that awkwardness, calling Harkin’s proposal a case of “liberals in Congress … once again embarked on a course to change the rules to fit their needs.