We have heard about obstruction in Congress, how the Senate is broken, and the desperate need of reform.
I want to let you know that you are not alone. These frustrations are shared both inside and outside of the Senate.
And you can trust hearing it from me. I used to be a member of the House of Representatives, and no one gets more fed up with abuse of Senate rules than members of the House.
In the current Congress, the House has passed about 350 bills that the Senate has neglected to consider. Many of them passed the House overwhelmingly. This demonstrates perfectly the old House adage, “The Republicans are the opposition, but the Senate is the enemy.”
It’s no wonder that when Representative David Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee — a man I greatly admire — announced his retirement this year, he did so saying, “all I know is that there has to be more to life than explaining the ridiculous, accountability-destroying rules of the United States Senate to confused and angry and frustrated constituents.”
It’s clear that concern for the dysfunction of this body runs far and wide. And the obstruction we have seen over the past few years is on a scale like nothing before
But the greatest frustration always seems to be that fixing the rules is impossible — that overcoming the rules is insurmountable.
The Senate rules call for two-thirds of senators, or 67 votes, to end a filibuster of any change to the rules. It takes little math to realize that reform through this route is all but impossible. It’s also not what the founders intended.
Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution states that “each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.” There is no mandate that it be done by a two-thirds vote, as the founders clearly required for major initiatives such as amending the Constitution or adopting a treaty.