Julian E. Zelizer: Senate Should Let Majority Rule

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter," published by Times Books, and editor of a book assessing former President George W. Bush's administration, published by Princeton University Press.]

Suddenly no one is talking about Congress as the "broken branch" of government any more.

Conservatives are complaining that the 111th Congress did too much, while liberals are boasting about all that was accomplished.

Within the span of a month, the media discussion shifted from the chronic complaints about partisan gridlock to, lo and behold, claims that this was the most productive Congress since the mid-1960s. Everything seems just fine on Capitol Hill.

The recent legislative success will create problems for Senate Democrats when they push for filibuster reform as soon as Congress reconvenes this week. The details of the upcoming reform package are still unknown. Based on most reports, the reforms are rather mild in that they don't attempt to lower the number of senators required to end a filibuster (currently 60).

Rather, the reforms are expected to focus on increasing the cost of launching a filibuster. Senators would actually have to stand on the floor, Mr. Smith style, and the Senate would be unable to work on other business while a filibuster is taking place. The reforms will probably attempt to end secretive practices such as the "hold," which enables senators to anonymously block legislation from being debated....

Some opponents of reform will certainly ask, given the recent coverage of the historic 111th Congress, whether procedural changes are really needed. Shouldn't senators just leave things alone?
End of the filibuster?
The past three decades of congressional history have been marked by a filibuster frenzy.

The answer is no. The past three decades of congressional history have been marked by a filibuster frenzy. The most striking characteristic of the modern Senate is that members now assume that 60 votes are required to pass almost any legislation....

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Arnold Shcherban - 1/9/2011

And what to do if some states will decide, e.g., to revive slavery or/and eradicate mentally ill?

Ephraiyim ben Yisrael - 1/9/2011

The only way to get Congress under any sort of control is to repeal the 17th Amendment. Place the Senators back under the control of state legislators. So long as the Senate is a popularity contest we will continue to have problems with political B***S**t.