Change the Senate filibuster rules

“Blocking a vote with a filibuster used to be rare and reserved for extreme situations,” said New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall. “Today every major bill faces one.” Indeed, he goes on to report that there have been more filibusters since 2006 than the total between 1920 and 1980.

Yet today, as a consequence of the new frequency of filibusters, there are more than 400 bills passed by the House that are waiting for Senate action. There are secret holds on judges and nearly 100 vacancies on the federal bench, more than ever before, and justice is being delayed.

The problem is in the Senate rules, specifically secret holds and the filibuster itself. The former allow senators to anonymously block bills or confirmations of presidential nominations from reaching the floor for an unlimited time; the latter allows a party leader to keep a bill or nominee from an up or down vote simply by threatening a filibuster, which requires 60 votes to overturn. As a result, the Senate has become the place where bills go to die.

Americans don’t respect Congress these days, and the Senate’s dysfunctional rules are a big part of the reason for that. By changing those rules, the Senate could go a long way toward restoring our confidence in what’s often called “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”