Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tom Said Stop Talking

Sen. Tom Harkin(D-IA) is talking about resurrecting an idea he had fifteen years ago. Back in 1995, Sen Harkin teamed up with Sen. Joe Lieberman(I-CT) to introduce a bill that would curtail the filibuster. The proposal would have instituted a gradual threshold for ending debate. The first vote would require 60 votes for cloture but each successive vote would lower the threshold until it only required 51 votes to end debate.

After watching Max Baucus and his "gang of 6" drag out their deliberations on healthcare reform to the point of almost killing the bill, it is clear that there are plenty of ways for Congress to stop a bill from becoming law. The filibuster is a holdover from a bygone era and its use to stop progress, especially progress on civil rights, is evidence that the filibuster has long outlived its usefulness. The Senate recognizes this fact and instituted the process of reconciliation that allows bills related to the federal budget to pass with 51 votes. If 51 is good enough for budget votes then it is good enough for al bills the Senate considers.

I am especially glad to see that Sen. Harkin is leading the charge. As a longtime Senator, Harkin would usually be expected to jealously guard his prerogatives. Instead Sen. Harkin is to be commended for putting the good of the country, and the Congress, above his own individual prerogatives.

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