Narrowing the Rights of the Minority

Brian Darling /

“Filibuster reform” is the new cause of the left. Senator Mark Udall (D–CO) has drafted up a rules change that would chip away at minority rights in the Senate by severely limiting the filibuster. This idea would narrow transparency, limit opportunities to offer amendments, and limit debate in the Senate for Members of the minority party.

The filibuster is the Senate rule contained in Rule 22 of the Senate’s standing rules that forces 60 out of 100 Senators to vote to end debate on legislation or a nominee. These rules can be changed only with a two-thirds vote of Members.

The Udall idea is born from the argument that the filibuster is to blame for broken down government, when the blame should lie with Members of both parties unwilling to tackle important issues.

Rule 22 is the most powerful tool for the minority party to leverage participation in the legislative process. If Udall’s idea becomes part of the Senate’s rules, the Senate would become a smaller version of the House, where Members of the minority party have little right to do anything other than vote. Chipping away at the filibuster rule would chip away at the Senate tradition of unlimited debate and an open amendment process. (more…)