In my last post, I reviewed two court cases bearing on the Senate filibuster rule. These cases, U.S. v. Ballin and Skaggs v. Carle, strongly suggest that the Senate "monkey wrench" rule can be broken by a simple majority vote of the Senate -- 51 votes -- rather than the two third majority -- 67 votes -- demanded by Majority Leader Harry Reid. I've decided to call it the "monkey wrench" rule because its effect is essentially to throw a "monkey wrench" into the works, preventing majority rule from operating properly. (I came up with that name in response to Rachel Maddow's "Filibuster Challenge.") I also discussed there how Harkin's rule avoids the tired argument that revising the filibuster means the end of debate on controversial issues.
If we want ENDA, DADT repeal or DOMA repeal, we must support Senator Tom Harkin's Senate Resolution 416, and we must teach "Majority" Leader Harry Reid how to do math: 51 is a majority of 100, not the 67 votes that he is demanding for change.
A case that was appealed to the US Supreme Court in 2004 also suggests that a simple majority is enough. Call Senator Harry Reid and demand that he allow a majority vote on Senate Resolution 416 to amend the filibuster rules. (202) 224-3121.
By the way, Vice-President Biden said on CBS Face The Nation yesterday that the abuse of the filibuster is the worst he'd ever seen in his 36 years in the Senate. The Miami Herald had a very informative article on the Republican "filibuster everything" strategy yesterday, and so did the UPI. The whip count from Open Left shows that the number of supportive Senators is growing, and it also acknowledges that only 51 votes are required to change the rule.
For example, in the 2004 case of Angle v. Guinn, 541 U.S. 957 (2004), the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the petition of members of the Nevada Legislature who were upset that a simple majority was able to pass a law. The Nevada Constitution had been amended a decade years earlier to require a two-third majority for any tax increase. The Legislature adjourned in 2003 after passing a budget that included zero dollars for education. This violated the Nevada Constitution, which requires that the state have a public education system.
The Governor of Nevada called a special session of the Legislature to consider bills funding the Nevada public school system. A majority of the Nevada Legislature voted in favor of the bills. Although they failed to garner the 2/3 vote required by the Constitution, the Speaker of the Assembly gaveled the bill "passed."
The legislators opposing the bills sued to stop their implementation, and the Nevada Supreme Court denied their petition on that ground that a simple majority was sufficient to change the rule. The losing legislators had the right to ask for an appeal directly to the United States Supreme Court, and they did. They filed a writ in the US Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied the writ, effectively upholding the Nevada Speaker and the bills that were passed with a simple majority. While the US Supreme Court says that denying such a writ only means it refuses to consider the case -- the unavoidable corollary is that the problem wasn't very important.
Harry Reid is dead wrong about the 67-vote guideline on changing Senate rules. Yes, it is there now -- but it can be changed by a simple majority of 51 on Harkin's Senate Resolution 416. But Harry Reid insists on interpreting this guideline as inscribed in stone. Why does Harry Reid insist on 67 votes? Call Senator Harry Reid and demand that he allow a majority vote on Senate Resolution 416 to amend the filibuster rules. (202) 224-3121.