JON E. DOUGHERTY, NEWSROOM AMERICA
A government watchdog group has filed suit in federal court to have the Senate’s filibuster rule declared unconstitutional, saying the rank partisanship amounts to a “gridlock” not envisioned by the nation’s founders.
“Most Americans have lost confidence in Congress and its ability to act in the best interest of the American public,” said Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause, which filed its suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. “They have good reason. Congress is mired in gridlock as partisan factions put political advantage over the national interest.
“Requiring 60 votes to do anything in the Senate is a big part of the problem,” Edgar continued. “It creates a disincentive to compromise, and allows powerful special interests to call the shots behind closed doors.”
The filibuster was once a rarely used procedure to allow for extended debate but in recent years it has been co-opted by senators on both sides of the aisle to prohibit action on a number of crucial issues “including tackling the student loan debt crisis, revitalizing the economy, requiring disclosure of campaign spending and filling court vacancies,” said the group, in a statement.
The suit says the rule is unconstitutional because it violates “the core American principle of majority rule.”
“America can’t wait any longer for Congress to tackle our nation’s problems,” Edgar said. “We can’t afford to let a minority of U.S. senators block action. It’s wrong, and it’s unconstitutional. It’s time to restore majority rule in Washington and get the country moving again.”
The suit argues that senators representing as few as 11 percent of the nation’s total population have the power to withhold debate and thereby prevent votes on key issues. The group says that is a constitutional violation because, except in certain circumstances, the majority in each chamber should be able to conduct the nation’s business.
The complaint even notes that the Senate has been unable to reform its own rules because the procedure itself has been blocked by a filibuster.
“It’s clear the framers intended that a supermajority be required only in rare and special cases, like impeachment, ratifying a treaty, or overriding a presidential veto,” said Emmet J. Bondurant, founding partner of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, Common Cause’s lead attorney and a member of the organization’s National Governing Board. “It was not meant to block debate.”
Congressional plaintiffs include U.S. Reps John Lewis, D-GA., Michael Michaud, D-ME., Hank Johnson, D-GA, and Keith Ellison, D-MN, all of whom have seen legislation they sponsored win overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, only to be filibustered in the Senate, the statement said.
© 2012 Newsroom America