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George Will | Rewriting history on the filibuster





Ideas are not responsible for the people who believe them, but when evaluating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s ideas for making the Senate more like the House of Representatives, consider the source. Reid is just a legislative mechanic trying to make Congress’s machinery efficiently responsive to his party’s progressivism. And proper progressives think that the Constitution, understood as a charter of limited government, is unconstitutional.

They think that the “living” Constitution gives government powers sufficient for whatever its ambitions are, enabling it to respond quickly to clamorous majorities. Hence the progressive campaign to substantially weaken the ability of senators to use filibusters to delay action.

Until 1917, it was generally impossible to stop extended Senate debates. Then — during the administration of Woodrow Wilson, the Democrats’ first progressive president — the Senate adopted the cloture rule, whereby debate could be ended by a two-thirds majority vote. In 1975, the requirement was lowered to three-fifths. If there is now another weakening of minority rights, particularly by a change brought about by breaking Senate rules, the Senate will resemble the House. There the majority controls the process, and the disregarded minority can only hope to one day become the majority and repay disregard in kind.

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