President of the Senate Rejects the Filibuster.

biden.jpgIt's all the buzz in the anti-filibuster internet world: Vice President Joe Biden, who is technically president of the Senate, thinks the filibuster is a terrible idea. At a fundraiser in Florida, the VP remarked:

As long as I have served ... I've never seen, as my uncle once said, the constitution stood on its head as they've done. This is the first time every single solitary decisions has required 60 senators. ... No democracy has survived needing a super majority.

While I haven't seen the research on democracies surviving with super majorities (Paging Monkey Cage), it is clear that the way the filibuster is used has changed radically. The important thing, though, is should Biden want to put his money where his mouth is, he is one of the few people with the power to actually eliminate the filibuster: The vice president, presiding over the Senate, can rule that filibusters are unconstitutional (C.f. Thomas Geoghegan, "Gang of 14") thus ending the practice.

True, the move requires support from Senate leadership and 51 votes to uphold the ruling, which might be difficult to get -- those ten senators between 50 and 60 votes are inclined to protect the filibuster because they are the same votes who benefit from holding out whenever major legislation comes to the floor. It would be nice if the executive branch, at least in the form of Biden, made clear their willingness to eliminate the filibuster in order to pressure Harry Reid et. al. to clean up their own mess.

-- Tim Fernholz

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