For now, it appears Senate returning to dysfunction-as-usual

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  • Dale Eisman

One month after 53 Democratic senators signed a letter announcing they would try to breathe some life into the principle of majority rule in that chamber, it now sadly appears that little reform will actually occur.

Barring some last-minute resolve, the Senate is expected to return to dysfunctional business-as-usual. In other words, the Republican minority can continue abusing the filibuster to block Democratic initiatives and the Democratic leadership can continue to choke off GOP amendments to what little legislation actually reaches the floor.

Three bright spots in this debate have been Sens. Tom Harkin, Jeff Merkley and Tom Udall, who’ve made a sustained, energetic effort to get the Senate to do the work Americans elected it to do. They at least have secured a new rule that apparently will keep senators from using secret “holds” to keep legislation off the floor. We hope they’ll continue their crusade for bigger reforms, including an end to the filibuster. This fight needs to go on, and Common Cause is committed to advocating for the serious reform needed to fix the Senate.

A dark spot, we must note, has been Sen. Lamar Alexander, who on Tuesday used the filibuster rule to block a floor debate on Merkley’s plan to change the filibuster rule. We can only conclude that the case for leaving the rule unchanged is so weak that Alexander and his brethren were embarrassed to be seen trying to articulate it.