The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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February 4, 2013

Our View: Filibuster deal won't solve the problem

Senate leaders last week reached a tentative deal to limit the filibuster — a tool that has been abused to the point of creating permanent gridlock in Congress.

It’s difficult to get very excited about the compromise reached between Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his counterpart, Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, but it is at least a step toward meaningful reform.

The deal will only bar filibusters on motions to begin debating bills and only if members of each party are guaranteed the opportunity to offer at least two amendments. Some argue all the deal really does is speed up the process  of breaking a filibuster with 60 votes. That could actually be counterproductive by legitimizing the idea that a 60-vote threshold is needed to pass any legislation in the Senate.

Many of those desiring real reform had hoped a deal would return filibustering to what it once was, when minority members who opposed a bill could take to the floor and talk for as long as they wanted in an attempt to bring attention to their grievances. (Now, one senator can anonymously halt legislation and no one has to take to the floor.)

Some reformers had hoped Reid would use the so-called “nuclear option” and override GOP opposition by changing the filibuster rule on a simple majority vote. But Reid, trying to respect the traditions of civility in the Senate, refused to take that drastic approach.

The filibuster was intended to give the minority a chance to weigh in on legislation without being ignored by the majority. It was never intended to require a super-majority vote on all legislation.

The way the filibuster has been abused — by both parties when they’re in the minority — is detrimental to the country and further jades American voters about their government.

It is encouraging that the Senate leadership is at least discussing changes to the filibuster, even if the steps don’t go nearly far enough. Let’s hope that Reid’s restraint in not using the nuclear option and renewed focus on filibuster abuses may lead both sides to realize the filibuster should return to what it once stood for.

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