With the start of a new congressional season, a proposal has been made by Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) to change the rules about how the filibuster can be used in the Senate. Over the past fifty years there has been a gradual increase in the use of filibusters to bring legislative progress to a halt. Filibuster use (as represented in the chart below showing the frequency of cloture votes to end a filibuster) has skyrocketed in the past decade.
The Senate’s history as a calmer, more deliberative body than the House of Representatives is an important one to preserve, but filibusters have become more of a stalling tactic than a deliberative one and instead of protecting the interests of the minority, serve instead of hijack the interests of the majority to accomplish what they were elected to do: legislate.
Doing my duty as an actively engaged citizen, I emailed my senators to let them know I am in favor of the proposed changes.
One, Pat Roberts (R-KS), responded with a virtual filibuster. His email response explained that as a member of the Senate Rules Committee, he held hearings on this topic last year and is not in favor of any changes. “My statements are available on the committee’s website,” he wrote. On that page I found the link to download the 666-page Publication on the Filibuster Hearings Series.
I’m glad Senator Roberts feels that the clearest and most effective way to summarize his objections to changing the Senate rules is to direct me to a 666-page document. And one wonders why so few Americans participate actively in civic life.