Making the need for Senate reform all the more obvious

MAKING THE NEED FOR SENATE REFORM ALL THE MORE OBVIOUS…. As painful and drastic as the consequences for Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R) temper tantrum are, if his ridiculous stunt helps convince senators of the need for reforming the institution, at least some good may come of this.

In the halls of the Capitol just now, two key Senators voiced strong support for fixing the filibuster, suggesting that the Bunning mess could end up giving this fledgling movement more momentum.

The two Senators — Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders — also expressed support for the filibuster reform proposal recently unveiled by Senator Tom Harkin.

“We [should] consider certainly some level of filibuster reform,” Senator Brown told a handful of reporters outside a presser about Bunning. “Maybe getting rid of the motion to proceed, which is one more complicating slowdown step.”

When I asked if he would support the Harkin effort, Brown said: “Yes, probably. It’s clear to me it’s not working. We need to make some changes — maybe comprehensive changes in the rules.”

Separately, Sanders told me in the Senate hallway that he’s “absolutely on board” with filibuster reform. “We’ve gotta reform it,” Sanders said. “The present situation leads to dysfunctionality.”

For the record, Harkin’s proposal to restore majority rule to the Senate (S.RES.416) still has a total of three co-sponsors nearly a month after its unveiling — New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen (D), Illinois’ Dick Durbin (D), and Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski (D). It’s not, in other words, setting the political world on fire.

But “Bunning’s blockade,” as some have begun calling it, has made it even clearer that the institution is no longer able to serve its purpose. The rules haven’t changed, but those willing to abuse the system, twisting the Senate into a scandalous mess, have effectively broken the American policymaking process. One unstable crackpot, apparently motivated by voices he hears in his head, is single-handedly causing national havoc for the unemployed, highway workers, medical professionals, small businesses, and others.

If the country expects to thrive, it’s going to need a functioning Senate. The status quo and Republican abuses have made this largely impossible. The more members realize this, the better.