Blunt, McCaskill take opposing views on Senate rule changes

Dec 31, 2012

Averting big, abrupt tax increases and spending cuts isn’t the only issue pressing in Washington this week.

The U.S. Senate may soon move to fundamentally change the way it does business, and Missouri’s two senators are on opposing sides of that debate.

Republicans launched an unprecedented number of filibusters in the last two years. A filibuster can shut down discussion of an issue until 60 percent of the Senate votes to end it. 

Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, says Republicans have been using them routinely to bottle up legislation, and to effectively block majority rule.

“As I said to one of my Republican colleagues, who was worried about what we were doing, that we needed to hold onto the Senate,” McCaskill said.  “And I said, ‘What are we holding on to?’ This place doesn’t work like it used to.  We have shut it down from real deliberation, and we have limited our ability to even debate bills.”

McCaskill says she’d like to see Senators be required to show up and talk on the Senate floor in order to lodge a filibuster. She says that, if need be, she’ll vote to change the rules with a simple majority, something Republicans call the “Nuclear Option.” 

Senator Roy Blunt is featured on a website devoted to stopping that option.  

“The rules of the Senate are still adequate for the Senate to do its job,” Blunt said.

He says if Democrats vote to change Senate rules with a bare majority, they’ll likely employ similar tactics to steamroll the minority in the future.

An alternative, bipartisan effort to change Senate rules would streamline the process but stop short of a “talking filibuster” requirement. Supporters hope that compromise will draw the 67 votes required for a normal rule change.