Liberal Activists File Lawsuit Claiming That The Filibuster Is Unconstitutional
A group of illegal immigrant students, joined by four Democrat members of the House, have filed a lawsuit against the Senate’s filibuster claiming that it’s unconstitutional because it dilutes the voting authority of the House members as well as the representation of their constituents in Congress.
The students, who were born outside the U.S. and brought to the country illegally by their parents, claim they were denied a path to citizenship because of the archaic 1975 filibuster rule. During the 2010 lame-duck session, the DREAM Act, backed by President Barack Obama, won passage in the House and attracted a simple majority of 55 votes in the Senate, but fell short of the 60 needed to break a GOP filibuster.
The Democratic lawmakers argue that their votes in the House have been “diluted” by the filibuster rule, since such bills as the DREAM Act and campaign-finance DISCLOSE Act passed the House and won backing from a majority of senators but fell short of the 60-vote threshold. The DISCLOSE Act garnered 59 votes in the upper chamber.
“These bills continually pass the House and get blocked in the Senate,” said Sarah Dufendach, vice president of legislative affairs for Common Cause, which pushed for the DISCLOSE Act. “Their vote is being diluted. Their constituency is being diluted.”
The problem with their case is that the Constitution gives broad authority to each chamber of Congress to set its own rules. The second clause of Article I, Section 5 reads: “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.”
The Senate’s filibuster is enshrined in that chamber’s rules. Those rules can be changed, but it would require a 2/3′s majority which filibuster opponents can’t ever seem to muster (mostly because the pragmatic members of both parties realize that the filibuster can be useful when you’re in the minority).
Frankly, I like the filibuster. I think the founders designed our federal government to act slowly, and only with broad national consensus. That’s because there are few good, one-size-fits-all policies for a nation as large and diverse as America. If the federal government is going to pass a law, I have no problem with the standard for that law’s passage being something more than a simple majority vote in both houses of Congress.
But then, I’m one who generally feels that the more gridlock we have in Washington the better. How often have we citizens ever lamented there being too few taxes, or too little red tape, put in place by our national legislators?Tags: filibuster