The broken filibuster

The recent Senate agreement on Obama’s nominees signals the need for filibuster reform.

by Ronald Dixon

Recently, Republicans in the Senate agreed to some  demands of Senate Democrats to allow voting on four of President Barack Obama’s executive nominations. In exchange, Democrats agreed to not perform a filibuster, the “nuclear option” which suspends Senate rules to allow for only a majority approval on nominations.

The main result of the compromise was the approval of Richard Cordray, the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Created as a part of the Dodd-Frank bill in 2010, the group has gone without a permanent director since its creation.

As someone who keeps a sharp eye on the legislative branch of government, this is positive news. Republicans, who have been obstructing much of the Obama agenda since he was elected, have finally agreed to reduce some of their delay tactics.

In the aftermath of the agreement, some in the media have questioned whether this compromise will approach a new wave of long-term bipartisanship. However, given the political trends since 2009, I highly doubt that this isolated incident will spell positive change in the Senate.

Moreover, this compromise should place even more pressure on the Senate to enact needed reforms to the filibuster.

I wrote a column on the need for filibuster reform in January, and this deal did not accomplish any of the logical changes that should be instilled by Congress. The primary reform should be to change the rules so that only the traditional “talking filibuster,” — performed recently by Wendy Davis in the Texas Legislature and Rand Paul on the national level — would be allowed. This would reduce the rate of filibusters and make them more memorable and newsworthy. It would also allow us to monitor those that perform filibusters, as opposed to the silent filibusters that Republicans perform on a daily basis.

Although agreement in a partisan legislature is always a positive sign, the recent compromise signals the need for filibuster reform. If enacted, Republican obstructionism will diminish and threats from Democrats to use the nuclear option will subside.