This latest act of brinksmanship demonstrates that our filibuster fixation confuses a symptom with a far deeper problem. While senators have chosen to hold up presidential appointments more frequently of late, the same basic rules were in place during decades when the Senate wasn’t nearly so gridlocked. What has changed is that the personal interactions that once enabled the Senate to function despite harsh ideological divides have become relics of another era. And so filibuster reform will only paper over the Senate’s need to develop a landscape that allows for honest deliberation.
Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) have seized the initiative by urging the Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to conduct joint bipartisan activities on a more consistent basis. They note that during the meeting in the Old Senate Chamber, “senators from both sides of the aisle were able to have a respectful, yet frank and open discussion about issues that substantially impact the Rules that govern this Chamber.”
Sens. Reid and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should seize this opportunity and schedule monthly senator-only meetings. Let them do what their predecessors used to do more regularly—deliberate privately over the issues of the day. Surely some will complain about closed door meetings, but we must allow our leaders some room to govern. Moreover, no conversation among 100 people in Washington stays secret for long.
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Saturday, August 3, 2013
Deliberation and Collaboration in the Senate
Jason Grumet of the Bipartisan Policy Center writes at The Hill about the recent filibuster controversy in the Senate.