In particular, the republicans have taken advantage of Senate rules adopted during an earlier period of gentlemanly political chivalry in relationships and conduct styles. To work, Senate rules depend on common courtesy, decency, and a code of honor among gentlemen (and ladies). Without common courtesies and mutual respect, the Senate becomes hamstrung by its own rules and is unable to perform its duties of governance for the people. When one party’s constituency abandons this code, then the other cannot continue to abide by it and be effective. This is what has occurred.
The rule regarding sixty votes for cloture (closing debate, cutting off a filibuster, and bringing an issue to a vote) may not have always been the bad thing that it is now. When parties and members were restrained, and the threat of a filibuster was rare, it may have been helpful in slowing a few actions for greater deliberation. But it is poison in this partisan environment.
The 60 vote rule in the Senate is antithetical to democracy, where a majority must rule. It is counterproductive to the functioning of our American democracy, and it should be scrapped immediately. It has “broken” our Senate, and rendered it dysfunctional.
There is another Senate rule which is even worse, and must also be scrapped immediately. This is the rule that allows a single senator to hold up consideration of a bill or a presidential appointment. This rule, borne in that period of political chivalry and excess courtesy, is being grossly abused. A single senator can thwart the will of not only the Senate majority but the entire Congress and the nation. This has been happening regularly.
Our own two senators from Oklahoma have used this frequently, as a matter of personal privilege and arrogance, to hold up actions of the entire Senate, therefore the government. Senator Coburn’s offices have been picketed by crowds of interested Oklahoma young people over his hold on humanitarian aid to an oppressed people in Africa. Earlier he held up money for veterans’ health care, citing his same “principle.”