Senator Merkley’s filibuster reform proposal is, I think, really good. (Pdf link.) It takes away the current function of the filibuster — which is to enable a determined minority to prevent debate and votes — and restores the best notion of the filibuster, which is to guarantee that the minority party has its ideas heard, and enable minorities to force a debate before a vote.
Some key features:
1) Senate minority (and also the majority, but that’s less of a concern) has an absolute right to have a reasonable number of amendments (Merkley suggest five) discussed and voted on for every bill. More than five amendments could be presented by either side, but would require either unanimous consent, or an agreement between the leadership of both parties.
2) In order to filibuster a bill, at least ten Senators must be willing to put their names on a written filibuster request. That is, they’re required to take responsibility for the filibuster.
3) A significant number of Senators (“five for the first 24 hours, 10 for the second 24 hours, and 20 thereafter”) would need to be on the floor of the Senate at all times to sustain the filibuster. Furthermore:
The Senate could also require debate to be continuous. Under this requirement, if a speaker concludes (arguing either side) and there is no senator who wishes to speak, the regular order is immediately restored, debate is concluded, and a simple majority vote is held according to further details established in the rules.
This further expands the visibility of the filibuster. Americans who tune in to observe the filibuster would not see a quorum call, but would see a debate in process.
I’m frankly in favor of this. What do you think?