Making Your Voice Heard
As you know, tomorrow is 2014 midterm election day. No matter what your political views are, if you believe in our Republic based on Democratic principles, it is your duty to vote. Polling places will be open on election day from 6am to 7pm. You may locate your polling place here on the Virginia Department of Electionsâ€™ voter information website - voterinfo.sbe.virginia.gov/PublicSite/Public/FT2/PublicPollingPlace.aspx
Save the Republic â€“ End the Modern Filibuster Rule
As I write this column, control of the Senate has not yet been determined. On running the government efficiently, it might not matter which party wins the majority if the Senate rules are not changed.
The modern filibuster rule requires a super majority in order to make a decision on any issue of significance. A Republic based on Democratic principles cannot long survive if the vast majority of issue legislation requires a super majority in order to advance.
The historic filibuster rule required 60 votes to stop debate if a senator was standing in the well of the Senate debating the bill, as in the famous movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or as Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) did last year. As I have written before, starting in the 1970â€™s, a senator can â€śfilibusterâ€ť by merely making a request. This is generally called a â€śhold.â€ť This means that almost every issue can be delayed or stopped from being acted on at the request of a single senator. Once the â€śholdâ€ť by a senator has been placed on a bill, it then requires a super majority of 60 votes to end the debate.
This is not a partisan issue. Both Democrats and Republicans have used the modern filibuster rule to stall legislative policy that a majority might otherwise support. I strongly believe that this modern filibuster rule is a threat to the long-term stability of the Republic. The Founding Fathers never intended for a significant portion of the Senateâ€™s business to be blocked by a minority. I am reminded that this country long ago rejected South Carolina Senator John C. Calhounâ€™s theory of the tyranny of the majority.
Should the Senate remain in the hands of the Democrats, I fully realize that the filibuster reform I am advocating would result in more Democrat-passed bills coming to the House. But that is the way a democratic-republican form of government is supposed to work.
As laid out in Thomas Jeffersonâ€™s Manual of Parliamentary Practice, each legislative house ought to determine policy for itself, independent of the other branch. If that were not the case, we might as well have one legislative chamber as opposed to two.
Many Americans are frustrated with Congress â€“ rightfully so. A â€śDo-Nothing Congress,â€ť some say. But it is important to realize that the modern filibuster rule is a significant part of the problem. There are 387 House-passed bills dealing with issues that are stalled in the Senate. Many of these bills are bipartisan, but all deserve to be considered. I have no problem with a Senator taking to the floor for a traditional filibuster should they object to a bill under consideration. But I do have a problem with the current system, in essence, requiring a super majority. This system undermines the noble principles upon which the nation was founded.
The American people are deserving of a government that works. I strongly believe that eliminating the modern filibuster rule will allow more bills to be voted on and, thus, more compromises would be reached.
In other words, if you donâ€™t discuss a bill, you can never find the common ground that leads to resolution.
This is an important issue, and I feel it is important that I make my case in writing prior to knowing who wins control of the Senate this year. So that everyone knows, for me, this is not about party politics. It is about making the system work as it was intended.
I strongly believe our democratic-republican form of government, though not perfect, is the best system yet devised by man. If we are to preserve this system, we must end the modern filibuster rule, which is an aberration from the principles on which we were founded. Continued adherence to this rule will mean a continued loss of the trust of the American people in their contract with Washington to govern.
As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.