Another Democratic senator is making a legislative push that could alter the use of the filibuster, this time by trying to give senators more authority to change the parliamentary rules that bind their actions.
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) introduced a resolution on Monday that would give the Senate the ability to vote on its own rules and regulations every two years, when a new Congress convenes. Such a resolution would mean that a future Senate body would not have to operate under the guidelines of its predecessors, such as the rule that 60 votes are needed to end debate on legislation. In short: the filibuster could be drastically changed from its current incarnation.
“We, as elected representatives, have a duty to our constituents. But partisan rancor and the Senate’s own incapacitating rules often prevent us from fulfilling that duty,” Udall said in his remarks on the floor of the Senate. “While I am convinced that our inability to function is our own fault, we have the authority within the Constitution to act.”
Udall’s Communications Director Marissa Padilla explained in a brief conversation with the Huffington Post that this was not a frontal attack on the filibuster itself. Rather, what the senator is trying to do is lift the burden of outdated parliamentary stipulations. Since 1959, it has been mandated that Senate rules continue from one Congress to the next. The only recourse for change is provided in Senate Rule XXII, which states that a two-thirds vote of all senators is required to limit debate on a proposed rule change.
This may seem convoluted, but what Udall is saying is that changing the filibuster rule would take 67 votes, which is exceedingly unlikely. Instead, he wants each Congress to set its own standards, giving lawmakers the chance to put the cloture threshold wherever they want at the start of the year.
“Essentially no rules can change or many rules can change,” Padilla said. “The Senator is saying the Senate has the right to do it under the Constitution.”
In his statement, Udall added a quote from former Massachusetts Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge (R): “To vote without debating is perilous, but to debate and never vote is imbecile.”
Another effort to keep an eye on.