Warren’s solution for gridlock

During the campaign between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, Brown said the best way to end congressional gridlock was to send more senators like him to Washington, people willing to cross party lines when they vote. But now it’s Senator-elect Warren who’s talking about ending gridlock.

In a blog post for the Huffington Post, Warren writes: “I learned something important in my race against Senator Brown. Voters want political leaders who are willing to break the partisan gridlock.”

But instead of joining forces occasionally with Republicans, Warren is supporting a change in Senate rules that would make it easier for Senate Democrats to bypass Republican filibusters. She essentially wants to end partisan gridlock by being more partisan. (By the way, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t think much of Brown’s bipartisanship claims.)

Her approach has considerable support. Filibusters used to be rare events on the Senate floor, but now that they have gone virtual they have become commonplace. Rather than being forced to hold the floor by speaking continuously (think Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), today’s filibusters simply need 41 votes. Under current rules, the only way to end a filibuster is if a cloture motion receives 60 votes. If Republicans, the minority party in the Senate, stick together, they can block a vote on virtually any bill.

Warren says she will join Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and six other newly elected senators to push for an end to the existing 60-vote rule. Under a draft of Merkley’s proposal, a cloture motion that receives majority support — but less than the supermajority of 60 — would remain open for debate. Senators could continue to argue against the motion, but if they fail to keep debate going, a vote would be called and only a simple majority would be needed to pass the cloture motion and move on to a vote on pending legislation.

Prospects for passage are slim because two-thirds of the Senate would have to support the rules change. Some Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry, have expressed reservations about changing the rule. Back in May, Kerry said rules changes would not be needed if senators worked harder to find common ground on issues.

                                                                                                        –BRUCE MOHL


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