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House GOP Keeps Pushing to Change Filibuster Rules

McConnell, left, and Boehner are trying to work out a budget deal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
McConnell, left, and Boehner are trying to work out a budget deal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With House Republican leaders saying they want to expand opportunities for members to debate legislation on the floor, some GOP rank and file are asking Senate GOP leaders to do the same.  

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., became the latest to formally request the other chamber change its procedures. He is planning to introduce a resolution calling on the Senate to limit use of the filibuster on the motion to proceed.  

Under Senate rules, the body must approve the motion to proceed before it can begin debate on legislation or consider amendments, and the minority party in recent years has required procedural votes requiring 60 votes to proceed on such motions. With only 54 Republicans in the Senate, Democrats can and have blocked the chamber from debating bills; Republicans did the same when they were in the minority.  

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Franks’ resolution, expected to be introduced next week, would call on Senate leaders to prevent senators from placing anonymous holds on bills as a means of threatening a filibuster and instead require anyone wanting to block debate on a bill to speak on the floor in a traditional standing filibuster, his spokeswoman Destiny Decker told CQ Roll Call.  

“Under the current rules and practices, the balance between the reasonable opportunity to deliberate or debate and the ability to actually make a timely decision in the Senate no longer exists because Senate Democrats have deliberately eroded this fundamental equation,” Franks said in a statement.  

The Arizona Republican said his resolution calls for an adjustment in the filibuster rules, not an end to the procedural tool. He cited the filibuster as “one of the hidden-in-plain-sight reasons” for what he said was the false perception that Republicans are unwilling to attack President Barack Obama’s policies.  

Franks’ resolution comes after Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, sent a letter, co-signed by 56 House Republicans, to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging the Senate to modify the filibuster rules so that some bills could be approved by a simple-majority vote.  

“Some pieces of legislation, like the Iran nuclear deal, are simply so consequential that they demand revisions to the Senate’s procedures,” Smith and his colleagues wrote in September. “A move by the Senate to a majority vote that can approve some legislation would make it much easier for Congress to advance meaningful solutions to challenges our country faces.”  

House Republicans have no authority to do more than ask the Senate to change its rules. And Senate Republicans have been reluctant to employ the so-called nuclear option, to make changes to the chamber’s rules with a simple majority vote.  

Still, the topic could come up when McConnell speaks to the House Republican Conference the week of November 16th.


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