Mon January 7, 2013
Senator Joe Donnelly Wants Consensus on Filibuster Reform
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., says even though the filibuster has been abused in recent years, his party should seek a consensus with Republicans before changing the chamber's rules.
Critics have complained that the filibuster is too often used to block important votes. Since 2007, the GOP has used the parliamentary tactic to block legislation and nominees an unprecedented 386 times.
In the last weeks of 2012, Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell jousted over whether to restrict filibusters.
Donnelly says the negotiations to address the dysfunction should continue, and that Reid should find a general agreement with the GOP.
"He will be talking with our Republican friends over the next week or two to try to see if there is a consensus that can form, and I am hopeful that can happen," he says.
The Democrats hold a 55-to-45 majority in the 113th Congress, but that is still not enough to overcome the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. A group of liberal Democrats were pressuring Reid to use the "nuclear option" last week and change the Senate rules by a simple majority vote.
But Republicans argue any changes to the filibuster would erode Senate rules meant to protect the minority party. McConnell specifically has said that Democrats are more interested in a "power grab" after a succesful eleciton.
Among the rules changes Reid has proposed are banning filibusters at the start of debates, shortening the time required to break a filibuster and requiring that whoever is filibustering must actually speak on the Senate floor.
Donnelly is a one of the new Democrats who won election last fall. He says the Senate’s recent gridlock is unacceptable to constituents, but he wants a bipartisan solution.
"One point of example is I think when Lyndon Johnson was the leader it was used once in six years," he says. "And I may have my numbers not exactly right, but it was used 300 plus in the last six years. In Indiana, when we go to work we expect to go to work, and that’s what I think we should do."
Observers say that Reid and McConnell will begin negotiations over the filibuster after President Obama's inauguration.