The Constitution never contemplated the filibuster and a 60-vote supermajority for most legislation to pass in the Senate. It did explicitly include supermajority vote requirements for a small number of actions including conviction on impeachment charges, expelling a member of Congress, overriding presidential vetoes, ratifying treaties and adopting proposed constitutional amendments.
The filibuster is an artificial contrivance envisioned as an exceptional tool to give the minority an opportunity for extended debate and a higher threshold to end debate for extraordinarily important legislation. Unfortunately, over time it has been simplified, made easier to invoke and become normalized as a means of obstruction. As a result, the Senate has fundamentally transformed into a 60-vote institution, leading to regular gridlock.
That said, the filibuster also remains a valued tool of the minority, and its elimination would enable simple passage of sweeping legislation — a permanent disadvantage to the minority. This is something neither party wants, as they know that they will at some point inevitably find themselves in the minority.
Short of elimination, which appears unlikely, the filibuster should be modified to flip the burden from the majority to the minority. Instead of 60 votes required by the majority to end debate, the procedure could require 40 votes by the minority to continue it. If at any time the minority cannot muster 40 votes, debate ends, and the bill can be passed by the votes of a simple majority.
Under this scenario, if the minority party filibustered a piece of legislation, the majority would keep the Senate in session and require most of the minority Senators to be present at all times for debate, and ready on short notice to vote for debate to continue. As this could go on for an extended period of time, it would serve as a considerable deterrent to today's obstructionism. Minority interests would be preserved, ample debate would be ensured, with more timely cloture and final vote.
David Pederson, Excelsior
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Sen. Mitch McConnell's comment on the filibuster debate ("Senate reaches shaky power sharing truce," Jan. 27) was so disingenuous I shake my head. "They would guarantee themselves immediate chaos," he said. "Destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory." Comity and consent went out the window when Merrick Garland was blocked nearly a year before former President Barack Obama's term ended. That was pure power politics and a poke in the eye to the president the GOP so disliked. Now just watch the power politics in Congress attempting to block all of President Joe Biden's initiatives. Comity and consent, my foot.
Harald Eriksen, Brooklyn Park
Please convict that man
In reading "Senate rift grows deeper over trial" (Jan. 25), I was struck by one sentence that illustrates the tragic depths to which some Republican legislators have descended as they oppose "even the idea of a trial." The article notes that senators "weighed whether they would pay a steeper political price for breaking with [former President Donald] Trump or for failing to." Where is the commitment to their oath of office? Is their loyalty only to themselves, their political party and their re-election prospects?
To fail to hold Trump responsible for his egregious transgressions of civility, truth and our Constitution will only embolden future candidates to do the same. He must be subject to trial and hopefully to conviction. I believe the integrity and future of our democracy depends on it.
Lest anyone decides to discount my opinion as coming from a "raging liberal," let it be known that I am 68 years old and until the 2016 candidacy of Trump had only voted for a Democrat once in my life. I did so because I appreciated his efforts to work across the aisle. The Republican Party has much to answer for by its continuing support of Trump's lies and potentially illegal actions throughout the pandemic and the election.
Cynthia N. Hart, Chanhassen
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Of course many Senate Republicans voted against holding an impeachment trial ("Most GOP senators oppose impeachment," Jan. 27). A trial not only holds Trump accountable but holds them accountable. It forces each Republican to publicly state that he or she sees nothing wrong with the president of the United States fomenting insurrection and attempting to undermine our election system. It takes away any plausible deniability. If they vote against conviction they are proclaiming the Republican Party is the party of Trump. We may find once all the evidence is presented to the American people that a sufficient number of Republicans will think better of that and will indeed vote to convict. Either way, each senator will be on public display proclaiming how he or she views the chaos this man created. The people will remember how each voted. Republicans should view the trial as an opportunity to take back their party and make it stand for something noble again.
Robert Veitch, Richfield
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There's a mistake in the headline above the masthead of the Jan. 27 edition. The copy "Give Trump a free pass?" should read "Give Trump a free pass, yet again?"
Michael Gottsacker, St. Paul
AID FOR REBUILDING
Not just a Twin Cities question
I find it strange that outstate legislators want to refuse rebuilding aid to cities impacted by civil unrest ("Walz, GOP clash over state aid to repair damage after George Floyd riots," front page, Jan. 28).
Coming to the aid of one's neighbor is a basic part of our social compact, not to mention the teachings of most religions and certainly a Christian duty. We share each others' disasters and help each other out in countless ways. For instance, last year was a hard one for farmers, so all of us taxpayers and the government provided them 40% of their income. I know that I want farmers and farm communities to thrive. Is this concern not reciprocated? Let's remember that men who have been charged with burning my police precinct building are from Staples and Brainerd. Might complexion be limiting compassion for my neighborhood's needs?
Amy Blumenshine, Minneapolis
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In response to Gov. Tim Walz's budget proposal to use state funds to help rebuild properties damaged during last summer's unrest, state Sen. Julie Rosen has said that residents of greater Minnesota shouldn't have to help pay for this. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't some residents from greater Minnesota been charged for their participation in the violence that occurred? And don't those communities benefit from the economic contributions generated by the Twin Cities? In this day and age, we should certainly be able to think beyond the geographic limits of maps and boundaries and recognize that we're all part of the same "whole."
Cyndy Crist, St. Paul
It doesn't provoke so much as reveal
Using common sense and good judgment are nowhere mentioned in Megan McArdle's "It's time to cancel Twitter before it cancels you" (Opinion Exchange, print only, Jan. 28). Many, many people fail to use any common sense or good judgment when posting their ideas, thoughts, beliefs or opinions on Twitter. But inappropriate posts may also reveal a dark side that many people always possessed, but never had an opportunity to use until social media sites such as Twitter afforded them an opportunity. Tweets that bully, attack, accuse, lie or are vengeful reveal a dark side of Twitter users that existed long before Twitter came into existence.
George Larson, Brooklyn Park
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