Reform of the filibuster in the United States Senate is working, but maybe not well enough, says Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). New rules this year remove the requirement of 60 votes in order to begin debate on legislation and allow the minority two amendments to measures that reach the Senate floor. To filibuster a district court nominee or a sub-cabinet appointee, a senator must take the floor and speak.
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Durbin says these rules are working, a little. “[Sen.] Rand Paul followed the new rule, and the new rule is that if you’re going to initiate a filibuster (of a sub-cabinet appointee), come to the Senate floor and stay there, and he did for 13 hours, and that is good. That discourages some of the filibustering that we’ve had in the past, because it’s been grossly abused,” he said. This is an issue for Durbin as majority whip, with the Democratic majority often thwarted in carrying out its agenda or confirming the president’s nominees for judgeships or political positions.
He says further rule changes might be needed, but he doesn’t want to eliminate the filibuster – “It is part of the institution,” he says – nor make it onerous, because Democrats will one day be in the minority again. He will, if necessary, consider measures such as requiring a filibustering group to have 41 members in the chamber, or at least in the Capitol and available for a quorum call, at all times, or requiring at least one senator participating in the filibuster to hold the floor and speak.