Never Get Used to the Filibuster

One of this week’s best reads is Jason Zingerle’s wide-ranging interview with Rep. Barney Frank for New York magazine. Given the interviewee, it’s not surprising the piece is always interesting, often funny, and occasionally startling in its, well, “frankness.”

Since Frank has been in Congress for more than three decades and has experienced just about every built-in institutional barrier to change, you’d think an open-ended question about structural reforms would send hin into blue-skying or at least list-making. But no:

Are there structural reforms that you think need to take place?
To get rid of the filibuster in the Senate.

Is that the only one?
That’s the only one.

I’m among those who really get upset when people sort of internalize the recent routine use of the filibuster by Republicans to create a de facto 60-vote requirement for doing business in the Senate, as though it came down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets. It didn’t. It’s a revolutionary development in the empowerment of congressional minorities, of special utility to those who wish to obstruct progress. And it has a huge ripple effect on what happens in the House (as Frank indicates), the White House, and the country. We should never get used to it until it’s modified or gone.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.