Thursday, December 9, 2010

Political scientists engage in the struggle against the filibuster

My good friend and longtime conference roommate Greg Koger is one of the signers (along with Steve Smith, Barbara Sinclair, Sarah Binder, Eric Schickler, and others) of a letter trying to clear up some historic inaccuracies about the Senate's use of the filibuster.  Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) are reportedly circulating this letter to encourage the Democratic majority to simply do away with the filibuster, saying that Republicans' promiscuous use of the filibuster demands a corrective.  You can read the letter below.

My understanding is that Democrats could readily do away with the filibuster either by simply ruling that a simple majority can change the Senate's rules or by using some kind of stealth point of order.  Either would work and are permissible under the Constitution.  The question is whether 51 senators are actually willing to do it.

filibusterletter -


Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The possibility is called the "nuclear option" and I wouldn't go so far as to say that it would be upheld, although there is a good argument that it would be. The nuclear option would be pretty unprecedented at least in the modern Congressional era.

Seth said...

Yes, pretty unprecedented, although so is the recent use of the filibuster on basically everything.

James Moore said...

Upheld by who, though? Isn't this a chicken-and-egg sort of thing? The senate can change it, and the senate is the body that would decide whether or not that change is valid, with another 51-vote majority.

Seth said...

James is exactly right. The Constitution gives the Senate power to set its own rules. There is no higher authority on this question that the Senate leadership itself.