New Castle News

Editorials

December 13, 2013

Our Opinion: Everyone loses with changes in Senate rules

NEW CASTLE — Current squabbles over filibuster rules in the U.S. Senate remind us of an old saying:

Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

That seems to be the case with the Democratic majority in the Senate. Last month, Democrats changed the filibuster rules to allow for a simple majority vote to break a filibuster. Until then, 60 votes were needed to halt a declared filibuster, giving Republicans enough clout to block any action.

Now, the sort of filibuster referred to here isn’t the one that involves endless hours of talking. Instead, these filibusters are symbolic, essentially just declarations that prevent votes.

Democrats acted after years of frustration over the Senate’s failure to move on various nominations by President Obama, mainly for judicial and top administration posts. The decision to restrict the filibuster was touted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as a way to speed up action in the Senate.

At the time, we had our doubts about that statement. And this week, Republicans proved us correct by engaging in talkathons in order to slow down Senate action to approve several Obama nominees. While Democrats are getting their way on confirmation votes, it’s happening in very slow, very frustrating and very time-consuming fashion.

And Republicans vow to continue their tactics to register their objections over the filibuster changes.

So here’s what’s happening: Republicans aren’t getting their way, because Democrats are able to push their nominees through. And Democrats aren’t getting their way, because other Senate action is being delayed by the ongoing gabfests.

It has gotten so bad that Reid is threatening to have the Senate work through Christmas in order to catch up.

Now, we want to make it clear that there are no heroes in any of this. Republicans have abused their filibuster powers to block nominees for no valid reason. Ideally, this authority ought to be limited to nominees who pose real problems.

And Democrats pursued a strategy destined to backfire on them. Not only has the filibuster change failed to speed up action, it also threatens to one day return to haunt Democrats when they become the minority in the Senate.

For the average American, this issue may not be of much concern. If squabbling lawmakers manage to spoil their own Christmas holiday, who cares?

Unfortunately, this filibuster battle serves as a symbol of so much that is wrong in Washington. And it threatens to make compromise an even rarer commodity in the nation’s capital.

America is not served when the two parties are dominated by ideological extremes. But the problem is getting worse, not better.

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