Two weeks after the 2016 election, I spoke on the House floor and warned that the greatest single obstacle to meeting the expectations of the American people was the cloture rule in the Senate. I said: “Voters elected Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and they expect action. They’ll get it from the President and from the House. But in order for the Senate to rise to this occasion, it must reform its cloture rule when it organizes in January.” It didn’t.
Cloture is the Senate motion to conclude debate, and it is based on a sound parliamentary principle: as long as a significant minority – currently 40 Senate members – want to continue debate, that debate should continue. But this principle assumes it is an actual debate between real people regarding the merits of the subject directly at hand.
But that is not what cloture has become. Today, any Senator can block virtually any bill simply by filing a protest at the desk, and until 60 of the 100 Senators agree to take up the bill, it cannot be heard.
Ironically, a motion originally designed to protect debate has degenerated into a motion that very effectively prevents… Read More