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Fake filibusters

Published January 26. 2013 4:00AM

It is deeply disappointing that the Senate has once again passed up the opportunity to eliminate the sham filibuster. In enacting new rules, the Senate left in place the ability of the minority party - currently Republicans - to require a supermajority of 60 votes to advance a bill. They can do this by simply declaring a filibuster. We understand the Senate's role in making sure momentous legislation is not rushed into law without proper debate, but we long for a return to the days of the genuine filibuster when senators who wanted to block a bill actually had to keep talking. This assured that only policies that the minority party considered extremely important would be subject to the blocking tactic. The virtual filibuster allows 41 senators to stop routine legislation for the most pedestrian of political motivations.

But Democratic Majority Sen. Harry Reid did not want to use the opportunity a new Senate session provided to strong arm into policy a filibuster reform. His fear and that of other Democrats is that one day they will be in the minority and want to retain the same ability to raise havoc. The better way to avoid that eventuality is to do a good job and win elections.

The positive news is that some reforms passed, worked out between Sen. Reid of Nevada and the Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Democrats lose some of the tools they have used as the majority to block Republicans from amending bills on the floor. Republicans surrendered some procedural tactics they have used to kill bills before they can move to debate. And all senators will now have a greater ability to propose changes to legislation. The hand of the leadership has been too strong in preventing senators from influencing bills.

Most importantly, perhaps, the new rules remove needless impediments to acting on the president's district court judge nominations. Due to political game playing, not the competence of the candidates, President Obama's judicial nominees have waited more than three times longer for confirmation than those of his predecessor.

While the changes are fine, the decision to let the current filibuster rule stand was a mistake.

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