Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
"If you haven't got men who have learned to tell human rights from a punch in the nose…"
—Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939
The filibuster should not be eliminated.
It should be restored.
This is the great takeaway from the muddled debate over how to restore a measure of functionality to the US Senate.
For the past four years the Senate has made a mockery of the concept of majority rule. Though Democrats have held a clear majority in the chamber, they have been blocked at almost every turn by Republicans who have used what is referred to as the "filibuster" to prevent consideration of legislation, nominations and just about everything else the President Obama and the Democrats dare to propose.
But the Republicans have not used the filibuster as Americans recognize it.
Rather they have used a filibuster fantasy to impose the will of the minority on the majority.
The filibuster has no constitutional or statutory grounding. It is established and defined by Senate rules.
Historically, the filibuster existed as a protection against the silencing of the minority. Under the rules of the Senate, a member or group of members who did not have the votes to prevent approval of a piece of legislation could demand to be heard in opposition. Ideally, the traditional theory went, this avenue of dissent could prevent a rush to judgment.
But, in recent years, the filibuster has not been used to raise voices of dissent. Instead, it has been used to block votes on critical pieces of legislation, to make it harder for the president to advance even the most popular proposals and to undermine the basic premises of the principle of advice and consent.
What to do? Bring back the filibuster as it has historically been understood.
This appears to be what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is preparing to propose. Noting that there have been 386 Republican-led filibusters during his almost six years as majority leader, Reid said Monday: “We can’t continue like this.”