The Constitution, The US Senate, Exceptions To Majority Rule, And The Filibuster Crisis

Anyone who studies Congress knows that the House of Representatives is based on majority rule, the need to have 218 votes, if everyone is voting, to pass legislation through the chamber.

One would like to think that the same idea applies to the US Senate, that 51 votes are needed to take action, or 50 votes with the Vice President casting the tie breaking vote.

But, actually, the Constitution, drawn up by the Founding Fathers, set up FIVE conditions, where a two thirds vote was needed to take action.

A Constitutional Amendment requires a two thirds vote.

A vote to remove a President, Vice President, Cabinet Officer, Supreme Court Justice, or a lower level Federal Court Judge, after an impeachment trial, requires a two thirds vote.

A treaty with a foreign nation requires a two thirds vote for ratification.

An attempt to override a Presidential veto of legislation requires a two thirds vote.

The expulsion of a Senator, after investigation of his actions and behavior, requires a two thirds vote.

That is it, no other time when the Constitution requires more than a majority vote.

However, the evil action known as the filibuster has emerged to become a monster, which bottlenecks and paralyzes Senate action in recent times.

A rarity until 2007, the filibuster dates back a century, but was rarely used. But when it was, it required the individual or the group to spend hours upon hours speaking on the floor of the Senate.

Now, with 386 “filibusters” in the past six years by the Republican minority, with none of them leading to debate for hours and hours, but simply blocking action by the threat itself, it has become clear that action should be taken against this weapon of the minority to cripple the Senate,

So action is being planned to lower the filibuster numbers required to stop action from 60 senators to a number likely to be 55, but other plans are also being developed, and the decision will be made at the beginning of the new Senate on January 3, 2013.

More discussion of the filibuster will be done by this author in the weeks leading up to that momentous decision, to try to allow the Senate to act in a manner which allows action, rather than total paralysis, which has made the Senate lose its respectability!