Thursday, April 28, 2005

Quoting Harkin.

AMENDING PARAGRAPH 2 OF RULE XXV (Senate - January 04, 1995)

Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, for the benefit of the Senators who are here and watching on the monitors, we now have before us an amendment by myself, Senator Lieberman, Senator Pell, and Senator Robb that would amend rule XXII, the so-called filibuster rule of the U.S. Senate. This is an amendment that was agreed upon--at least the procedure was agreed upon for this amendment--between Senator Dole and myself earlier today under a unanimous consent agreement.

This amendment would change the way this Senate operates more fundamentally than anything that has been proposed thus far this year. It would fundamentally change the way we do business by changing the filibuster rule as it currently stands.

Mr. President, the last Congress showed us the destructive impact filibusters can have on the legislative process, provoking gridlock after gridlock, frustration, anger, and despondency among the American people, wondering whether we can get anything done at all here in Washington. The pattern of filibusters and delays that we saw in the last Congress is part of the rising tide of filibusters that have overwhelmed our legislative process.

While some may gloat and glory in the frustration and anger that the American people felt toward our institution which resulted in the tidal wave of dissatisfaction that struck the majority in Congress, I believe in the long run that it will harm the Senate and our Nation for this pattern to continue. As this chart shows, Mr. President, there has indeed been a rising tide in the use of the filibuster. In the last two Congresses, in 1987 to 1990, and 1991 to 1994, there have been twice as many filibusters per year as there were the last time the Republicans controlled the Senate, from 1981 to 1986, and 10 times as many as occurred between 1917 and 1960. Between 1917 and 1960, there were an average of 1.3 per session. However, in the last Congress, there were 10 times that many. This is not healthy for our legislative process and it is not healthy for our country.

The second chart I have here compares filibusters in the entire 19th century and in the last Congress. We had twice as many filibusters in the 103d Congress as we had in the entire 100 years of the 19th century.

Clearly, this is a process that is out of control. We need to change the rules. We need to change the rules, however, without harming the longstanding Senate tradition of extended debate and deliberation, and slowing things down.

[snip]

It is used, Mr. President, as blackmail for one Senator to get his or her way on something that they could not rightfully win through the normal processes. I am not accusing any one party of this. It happens on both sides of the aisle.

Mr. President, I believe each Senator needs to give up a little of our pride, a little of our prerogatives, and a little of our power for the good of this Senate and for the good of this country. Let me repeat that: Each Senator, I believe, has to give up a little of our pride, a little of our prerogatives, and a little of our power for the better functioning of this body and for the good of our country.

I think the voters of this country were turned off by the constant bickering, the arguing back and forth that goes on in this Senate Chamber, the gridlock that ensued here, and the pointing of fingers of blame.

Sometimes, in the fog of debate, like the fog of war, it is hard to determine who is responsible for slowing something down. It is like the shifting sand. People hide behind the filibuster. I think it is time to let the voters know that we heard their message in the last election. They did not send us here to bicker and to argue, to point fingers. They want us to get things done to address the concerns facing this country. They want us to reform this place. They want this place to operate a little better, a little more openly, and a little more decisively.

[snip]

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Update....Hummmmmmmmmmm......Isn't this what the Repubs. are thinking about doing?

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Harkin: We drew upon Senator Dole's proposal in developing our own proposal. Our proposal would reduce the number of votes needed to invoke cloture gradually, allowing time for debate, allowing us to slow things down, but ultimately allowing the Senate to get to the merits of a vote.

Under our proposal, the amendment now before the Senate, Senators still have to get 16 signatures to offer a cloture motion. The motion would still have to lay over 2 days. The first vote to invoke cloture would require 60 votes. If that vote did not succeed, they could file another cloture motion needing 16 signatures. They would have to wait at least 2 further days. On the next vote, they would need 57 votes to invoke cloture. If you did not get that, well, you would have to get 16 signatures, file another cloture motion, wait another couple days, and then you would have to have 54 votes. Finally, the same procedure could be repeated, and move to a cloture vote of 51. Finally, a simple majority vote could close debate, to get to the merits of the issue.

By allowing this slow ratchet down, the minority would have the opportunity to debate, focus public attention on a bill, and communicate their case to the public. In the end, though, the majority could bring the measure to a final vote, as it generally should in a democracy.