- Texas man arrested for powder-letter hoax
- Islamic State opens ‘marriage bureau’ for single jihadists
- Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes
- Tornado rips off roofs, downs trees near Boston
- GOP: Environmental rules keeping agents from accessing border
- John Kerry: Millions displaced by religious fighting in 2013
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia’s gay marriage ban
- White House says Russia ‘losing’ war in Ukraine
- Hamas turns to North Korea for weapons deal, Iran for money
- Syrian casualties surge as jihadis consolidate
Virginia’s Kaine backs changes to filibustering
Says he’d favor it regardless of party
Question of the Day
RICHMOND — Sen.-elect Tim Kaine on Thursday expressed enthusiastic support for reforming the chamber's filibuster rules, echoing a chorus of freshmen eager to make changes on Capitol Hill after being left to watch a gridlocked Senate from the sidelines the past several years.
Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, said members need to be accountable to both their colleagues and their constituents, and that he would support the changes, regardless of which party controlled the body.
"The only way to have accountability connected with it is if the American public and your Senate colleagues [can] look at you and hear you out and decide whether you are actually Joan of Arc raising a very good point that should cause the Senate to slow down and not do something, or just somebody who's trying to gum up the works," Mr. Kaine said at The Associated Press' annual "AP Day at the Capitol" in Richmond.
Democrats will have a 55-45 majority once the 113th Congress is sworn in next month.
Sen.-elect Angus King, an independent who won Maine's open Senate seat and will caucus with the Democrats, took aim at filibusters during his campaign, saying the 60-vote threshold for legislation to allow Senate action is not part of the Constitution.
Indeed, the founding document does not establish a supermajority for most legislation, but it does give each chamber the power to write its own rules, and the Senate has adopted the 60-vote threshold as a debating technique, not a threshold for passage — though that's often what it becomes. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell repeatedly has accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of trying to "break the rules to change the rules" by threatening to use the majority-vote method, also nicknamed the "constitutional" or "nuclear" option, to push through filibuster changes.
Nevertheless, Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who with others has sponsored legislation that would require filibustering senators to actually hold the floor, rather than merely threaten to block legislation, sent a fundraising missive in the waning days of the campaign urging donations for U.S. Senate candidates who "have committed to helping me fix the broken Senate by reforming the filibuster." Seven candidates won their races. In addition to Mr. Kaine, the list also included Democratic Sens.-elect Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii and Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut.
While newer members appear eager to get their feet wet on the issue, some of the more tenured Democrats have been cooler on the idea of using the 51-vote threshold, even if they are open to the changes themselves (another possible change would eliminate filibustering a motion to proceed, or starting debate on a bill). Two years ago, Mr. Reid resisted these kinds of rules changes, arguing that minority-party rights were too important to sacrifice for expediency. Instead, he reached a gentleman's agreement with Mr. McConnell: He would allow more amendments to be debated if Mr. McConnell agreed to stop some of the Republican filibusters.
But that agreement crumbled, with each side blaming the other, and Mr. Reid said he probably made a mistake in not pushing the changes back then.
This year's debate also marks a reversal from 2005, when Republicans held the Senate and Mr. McConnell supported the majority-vote method to change filibuster rules for judicial nominees. Mr. Reid opposed it.
Republicans ultimately didn't go through with that rules change after a bipartisan group of 14 senators struck a deal to curtail filibusters and approve more judges.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
David Sherfinski covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Wilder, Cuccinelli may be called as witnesses in McDonnell trial
- Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's trial to test definitions of political corruption
- Rep. Luis Gutierrez: Senate Dems wary of immigration politics
- Mich. congressman returns Commerce award after group endorses opponent
- Rep. Henry Cuellar on border crisis: 'Playing defense on the one-yard line'
Latest Blog Entries
- Dick Cheney: Hillary Clinton 'clearly bears responsibility' on Benghazi
- Holder vows to press ahead on gun control fight
- Seven of 10 prefer that Obama work with Congress, not go around it: Poll
- Schumer: Tea party hasn't let Obama put his policies into effect
- GOP official: Black not running for Wolf's House seat
TWT Video Picks
By David Keene
Allowing states to innovate could reduce dependency on bureaucracy
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- Iraqi Christians rally at White House: 'Obama, Obama, where are you?'
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- White House defends Kerry failure to broker Middle East cease-fire
- Tennessee Gov. Haslam slams White House for secret dump of illegals in his state
- Border surge puts Obama legacy on immigration at stake
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia's gay marriage ban
- Federal judge rules D.C. ban on handguns in public is unconstitutional
- White House says Russia 'losing' war in Ukraine
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq