Friedman co-authors New York Times op-ed on problem with Senate filibusters

In a March 9 New York Times op-ed, Vice Dean Barry Friedman and co-author Andrew D. Martin, a professor of political science and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, argue that a change in the current method of filibustering would drastically improve the Senate’s efficacy.

The dual-track method of filibustering, used since the 1970s, allows the Senate majority leader to set aside the current debate and move on to other matters even as the filibuster continues. With marathon floor debates no longer necessary to sustain a filibuster, senators can hold up a bill indefinitely while pursuing their own interests.

Friedman and Martin urge the Democrats to do three things: announce the order of their legislative agenda; declare that dual tracking, which is a practice and not a rule, will end; and require continuous floor-holding debate for any filibuster.

“The new-school filibuster would preserve minority rights in the Senate, while imposing significant costs on obstructionist members, changing the calculus that causes today’s logjam,” Friedman and Martin write. “Stuck on the Senate floor, filibustering senators couldn’t meet with lobbyists or attend campaign fund-raising events; they couldn’t do much of anything, really, until their filibuster ended.... [I]n a Senate without dual-tracking, Democrats would be able to simply and repeatedly remind the American people that after endless debate there always comes time for a vote. Win or lose, that is how things work in a democracy.”

Posted on March 10, 2010