Friday, April 27, 2012

better than nothing

Reform of the Senate's rules seems to be an ever-receding prospect. But something is better than nothing, and two senior Senators, Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee propose a modest improvement in the current practice.
We propose an approach that should be useful on many pieces of legislation: If the minority members would allow the majority leader to bring a bill to the floor for a vote without the 60-vote process, the legislation would be open to all relevant amendments but not to nonrelevant amendments.
They say this is what happened last week on the postal reform bill and they think it makes sense for Senators to make it the informal rule.  I still think that there should be a formal rule change making the "motion to proceed" -- that is, to take up and begin debating a measure -- nondebatable and thus immune to filibuster tactics. In fact, about 1/3 of all  filibusters in recent decades have been on motion to proceed.

If we can't change the basic rules, it is helpful to change the norms and the practice. So, as used to be said about arms control agreements with the Russians, it's modest but useful.

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