Reforming a Broken Senate

More than 200 years ago when visiting America, Alexis de Toqueville observed "a minority of the nation dominating the Senate could completely paralyze the will of the majority represented in the other house, and that is contrary to the spirit of constitutional government." The current state of today's Senate illustrates all too well the truth of de Toqueville's words. Arcane and outdated rules have transformed the Senate into a tyranny of the minority, where action has ground to a halt to the detriment of the country. In 2011, the Senate will have an opportunity to propose new governing rules to reverse this course. By eliminating two key practices - secret holds and the filibuster - the Senate could restore public confidence in its ability to act and become more accountable to voters.

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    Secret holds, which began innocently enough, have become a secretive partisan bludgeon aimed at thwarting the democratic process. Initially, holds were merely a courtesy to senators unable to come to the floor to debate pending matters, or to allow senators more time to read a bill. Today they are the regular order of business, used as a tactical weapon by senators to conceal their role in blocking legislation, resulting in gridlock with no accountability. Read More
    Traditionally, the Senate has functioned as a body that facilitates the exchange of ideas and promotes interaction across party lines. Currently, however, abuse of the filibuster has transformed the Senate into a dysfunctional body incapable of constructive deliberation on almost any issue. Members of both parties have abused this tool, which developed by mere accident. Read More


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