Former U.S. Senator and Vice President, Walter Mondale, Supports Changing the Senate Filibuster Rule

 MondaleFormer U.S. Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale supports changing the Senate’s filibuster rule to make the body more accountable and responsive to the needs of the people.

He did so in testimony before the Senate’s Rules Committee on May 19, 2010.

Mondale reminded the Committee that a majority of the Senate “shall constitute a Quorum to do Business” under Article I, Section 5(1) of the U.S. Constitution, and that the Senate with such a quorum has the constitutional power and authority under Article I, Section 5(2) of the Constitution to “determine the Rules of its Proceedings.” (Emphasis added.) This necessarily means that the Senate may establish such rules by a simple majority vote.

Moreover, according to Mondale, the Framers of the Constitution were wary of requiring super-majorities in the Congress and made such a requirement express in only a few instances.

Mondale was in the Senate in 1975 when the filibuster rule was last amended. He testified that he was a leader of that reform effort and that on at least three separate occasions at that time the Senate voted by a simple majority vote to change the body’s rules. This procedural point was endorsed by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who was generally regarded as the expert on Senate procedures. In short, the Senate actions in 1975 recognized that the previously mentioned constitutional provisions trumped any Senate precedents or practices.

Mondale also made the following specific suggestions on any reform of the filibuster rule:

  • First, the power of an individual Senator to put a “hold” on the Senate’s consideration of its providing its Advice and Consent to a presidential nomination needs to be weakened so that a motion to proceed on any such nomination could be adopted by a simple majority vote either without debate or debatable for a limited amount of time such as two hours.
  • Second, the vote necessary to invoke cloture and stop debate should be lowered from 60 to somewhere between 55 and 58.

This past week Mondale said he was worried that the current proposed rule changes, while of value, may not be sufficient to prevent the Senate’s paralysis if 60 votes will still be required to invoke cloture and end debate. The record of the Senate’s Republican minority in the current session of Congress and their current rhetorical resistance to any changes in the filibuster rule do not give one confidence that there will be a significant change in their behavior in the next session of Congress.

This blogger concurs in this pessimism about the sufficiency of the current reform proposals. We do not want a perpetuation of the tyranny of the minority.

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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