Senator Mitch McConnell filibusters his own bill (Society’s Slideshow)

By Dave Palmer

According to an article on Huffington Post yesterday, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will go down in Senate history as being the first member of that body to have ever filibustered his own proposal. Senator McConnell made a motion to vote on legislation that would let the president extend the country’s borrowing limit on his own.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) apparently objected at first, but shortly thereafter came back to propose a straight up-or-down vote. McConnell then was forced to recant, stating, “‘What we’re talking about here is a perpetual debt ceiling grant, in effect, to the president, ” McConnell said. “Matters of this level of controversy always require 60 votes.'” 60 votes is exactly the number of votes required to end a filibuster during debate.

Senator Dick Durbin went on record with reporters after Senator McConnell filibustered himself, saying, “”I don’t know how the Republicans can say they’re not abusing the filibuster after what we saw on the floor today. It’s somewhat comic, but sad as well, that we’ve reached the point where Senator McConnell will not even accept a majority vote on his own measure.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The idea of a filibuster is found nowhere in the Constitution. It was introduced into Senate rules as a way to prevent the majority party in the Senate from steamrolling the minority by requiring a near-supermajority to pass controversial legislation. However, for at least the last two years, Republican senators have been filibustering nearly everything from necessary judicial appointments to the renewal of a bill related to maintaining the interstate highway system.

Now, we have reached what I consider the absolute acme of opposition for opposition’s sake and the highest pinnacle of filibuster abuse. I can’t think of any circumstance under which I might propose a solution to a problem, then object to a group of people voting whether or not to make my proposal a reality.

This unfortunate circumstance in our government only firms my belief that the filibuster rules need to be reformed.

First and foremost, there needs to be a rule that you can’t filibuster your own proposal. That’s kind of like running for a political office, then voting for your opponent.

Second, let’s go back to actually making people give long and involved speeches during a filibuster. If they stop talking for any reason, then it should be considered to be a cessation of the filibuster, and normal voting rules should apply.

Third, Senators should have to demonstrate that they’ve at least attempted to reach some kind of compromise with opposing parties and have functionally debated the topic in committee and/or floor consideration before being allowed to launch into a filibuster.

As it stands now, the filibuster is obviously being used as means of obstruction rather than a tool to engage the Senate in political discourse over a controversial issue. Shameful uses of the filibuster, including yesterday’s demonstration by Senator McConnell, have torpedoed even bills that historically have had bipartisan support for many years or even decades. They have prevented necessary appointments of judges to the point of judicial emergency, and have gone as far as to say that America won’t pay its bills unless programs that have nothing to do with the deficit are cut.

This is disgusting, egregious, and utterly outrageous. Congress is no longer a representing body for the people. It’s become a collection of extremist idealogues who are willing to bankrupt our economy over a refusal to compromise. It’s a body that wants raise taxes on the middle class and the poor to protect tax cuts for the wealthy.  Most shockingly, they have made it clear that they desire to hurt senior citizens and the needy by cutting programs that almost all of them have contributed their tax dollars to and (according to them) have the gall to demand a return on their investment. (Yes, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are all earned benefits. We paid for them with our tax dollars, the programs are self-funding, and in no way contribute to the deficit.)

A democracy is supposed to represent majority will. I have no qualm with allowing minority opinion holders to speak up and try to convince more people of their point of view. But, when the majority of people aren’t buying what you’re selling, it’s probably time to sell something a little bit different.