Slippery slopes, super glue and the Senate

Slippery slopes, super glue and the Senate

Politico has posted another in Richard Arenberg’s series of warnings against change in the Senate’s filibuster rule. Arenberg seems to operate on the theory that if you repeat bad ideas often enough and forcefully enough, people eventually will think they’re good ideas.

In this post, he repeats claims that a Senate rules change ending or limiting filibusters would create a Senate that resembles the House of Representatives, with the majority in “strict control,” and debate limited.

“Majorities do what majorities do when they can: They take control. This is a slippery slope so slick that there is no return,” Arenberg writes.

Baloney. For more than 200 years, the Senate’s shifting majorities have had the power to re-write the rules and seize control. They’ve not done so. To borrow Anenberg’s phrasing, the slope is not slippery; it’s so coated with super glue that nothing can move.

What’s needed is a majority with the resolve and good sense to exercise its power and change the rules responsibly. It’s possible, indeed it would be easy, to fashion rules preserving the Senate’s traditions of robust debate and respect for the rights of the minority but permitting the majority to actually pass legislation. Indeed, Sen. Tom Harkin has spent years pushing just such a rules change — it would encourage extended debate, allow the minority to be fully heard and then let the majority make a decision.

The bottom line in this discussion should be a recognition that the current filibuster rule is unconstitutional. It overprotects the minority, allowing the party that loses the election to “win” by stifling debate and smothering the majority.