Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Field Days for Procedure Wonks!

The Senate shouldn't change its Filibuster rule, however, the the ongoing battle over the proposed change makes for some good reading for rules and procedure wonks. The linked LAT article above addresses not only the title fight between Democrats and Republicans (and, for that matter, Republicans and Republicans), but a secondary procedural issue over the vote necessary to change the rule. Republican leaders have been working off a 51 vote model, but Senate parliamentarian (ah, a noble position, indeed) Alan Frumin says it's a two-thirds vote, meaning Reeps need 67 ayes to bust the 'buster:

Frist and other Republicans contend that changing the filibuster rule would apply to only judicial nominees and would not affect the right of the minority party to filibuster legislation. But in a report made public Tuesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, Congress' research arm, disagreed with that analysis.

If "a change to the rules were accomplished by a majority vote, nothing would prevent other changes to the rules from being proposed, which could then conceivably be accomplished with a majority vote to end debate on them as well," the research service wrote.
Well, yeah. But at the end of the day, legislative bodies get to do whatever they want, rules-wise. If the Senate wanted to, it could even pass a law to change it's rules, but that could still be undone by a procedural floor action. That's just how it works - and it's a beautiful thing. The argument that Republicans should be mindful of what they change, lest it be used against them in the future when they're the minority party again (god willing), is both true and hollow. If you look at the history of procedural jockeying, both parties have become quite adept at using the weapons at their disposal regardless of voting stregth.

The filibuster is the sacred cow, of course, and, on principle, shouldn't be changed. But there's still no rule against, uh, rules.

No comments: