Frustration with the legislative logjam in the Senate has reached a boiling-over point, and Senate Democrats intend to test the waters this week with a possible rare and controversial change in the chamber’s governing rules that could limit the power of any individual senator to slow or stop debate on any particular nominee or piece of legislation.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, elected in 2008, intends to offer a resolution on Wednesday, according to his spokeswoman, Marissa Padilla, that could result in a change not only in the filibuster rule, but also an elimination of a rule that allows any member to anonymously block, or hold, legislation or presidential appointees. The resolution would open the door, by a 51-vote majority, to alter the standing rules which govern filibusters and holds, among many other things.
“Senator Udall does plan to offer his resolution for the Senate to take up its rules by a simple majority vote on Wednesday, the first legislative day of the session,” Padilla said, adding that this move would then allow the body to consider a number of reform proposals “in order to rein in the needless delay and obstruction that have become so prevalent.”
This contentious move would require a challenge to existing precedents that establish the Senate as a “continuing body,” according to a nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, one where the rules continue from one session to another with one-third of the chamber’s membership constantly in existence, unlike in the House, where the entire membership must be chosen every two years with rules approved in each new Congress.
Proponents of the change intend to argue, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide, that on the first day of a new session, the rules are not yet in effect, with the Constitution delegating the creation of the chamber’s rules to senators, though this runs counter to historical precedent, this according to Robert Dove, former Senate Parliamentarian for 12 years spread over two terms.