Washington, DC – New Mexico US Senator Tom Udall today, September 22, 2010, continued his push to change Senate rules to stop what he calls "abuse" of voting procedures. The Democrat's effort could have the effect of allowing the party in power to make a filibuster easier to overcome.
Udall has blasted Senate Republicans for what he calls "obstructionism" in their repeated efforts to stop legislation through the filibuster. Currently, it takes sixty votes to end debate on a measure if one party filibusters. Senate Democrats could drop that number to 51 if Udall's motion to change the rules is adopted. He notes that the U-S Constitution allows the Senate to determine its own rules, but says the current requirement of 67 votes to do so conflicts with that. He presented to the Senate Rules Committee a resolution he calls the "Constitutional Option", that would allow the chamber's rules to be changed with just 51 votes. Udall told the committee the current rules "have encouraged obstruction like none ever seen before in this chamber".
Senate records indicate the Republican minority has used the filibuster 118 times so far in this Congress, which still has three months remaining. That's compared to preceding congressional sessions, when Democrats were in the minority, and used the filibuster 68 times and 62 times for each of the corresponding two-year terms.
The Senate Rules Committee has in recent months heard a number of proposals for addressing the filibuster, an indication that there is an appetite for rules reform in that chamber. Udall's rule-change motion would take place on the first day of the next Congress in January.