Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Morgan Griffith on Filibusters

From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith:

"More on Ending the Modern Filibuster Rule

On many occasions, I have taken issue with the modern interpretation of the Senate filibuster rule.  When I last wrote on this topic in a newsletter, it was just before this year’s elections.  Control of the Senate had not yet been determined.

As I have said previously, this is not a partisan issue.  On running the government efficiently, it might not matter which party wins the majority if the Senate rules are not changed.

Whether or not you agree with Republican policies, come January 6, the Republican party will be in control of both the House and the Senate.  I strongly believe that in November, the American people voted for change.

I also strongly believe that the modern filibuster – which requires a super majority in order to make a decision on any issue of significance – violates the spirit of the Founding Fathers’ intent to have a majority rule Republic based on Democratic principles.  They never intended for a significant portion of the Senate’s business to be blocked by a minority.

The historical rule – as depicted in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington when Jimmy Stewart holds the floor with an impassioned filibuster that slowly changes the minds of his fellow senators – is a good process.  But starting in the 1970’s, a senator can filibuster by merely making a request.  This is generally called a “hold.”  Adding insult to injury, the senator’s identity doesn’t even have to be made public.

I had been hopeful that a Senate Republican majority might see that this modern filibuster rule is a threat to the long-term stability of the Republic, and revert to the historical rule.  Instead, unfortunately, some in the Senate seem unwilling to return to the historical filibuster rule, and are already making apologies.  By apologies, I mean they are telling us in the House and their constituents that they can’t get everything done the voters want because they still don’t have 60 votes.  But as I quipped to one new Senator-elect recently, “It’s only a 60 vote requirement because you allow it to be that way in the rules.”  Clearly it would break with a 40-year tradition, but the Founding Fathers believed in majority rule. 

There are many problems in Washington, and there are some rules in the House which need to be tweaked.  Further, it would be helpful if the House actually followed its rules.  But I believe that the modern filibuster rule is one of the biggest procedural problems in Washington, D.C.

The American people are deserving of a government that works.  I have no problem with a Senator taking to the floor for a traditional filibuster should they object to a bill under consideration.  Nor do I take issue with the fact that the filibuster reform I am supporting would likely result in bills coming to the House from the Senate that may be difficult votes for me and my colleagues.  This would be especially true should the Democrats regain control of the Senate.

But by reverting to the historical rule, I believe more bills will be voted on, more compromises will be reached, and more progress can be made when it comes to growing jobs and our economy, fixing our health care system, securing our energy future, and more. 

This is how the process is designed to work.  It is essential to begin building the consensus and compromise.  This is what our country expects from its elected leaders.

After reading my November 3, 2014 message calling for the end of the modern filibuster rule, several people said something to the effect of, “Oh, yes, of course Griffith wants to change this rule now that the Republican party gains control of the Senate,” or, “I don’t remember Griffith calling for this change before, when the Republicans used this rule to block the President’s agenda.”  To these folks, I would respectfully note that I wrote regarding my thoughts about the need for filibuster reform as early as November 16, 2012 – soon after the 2012 elections, in which President Obama won reelection and the Senate was firmly in Democrat hands with a combined total (53 Democrats and two Independents who caucused with the Democrats) of 55 seats. 

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. "