Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) “today continued his call for reform of the Senate rules during the fourth in a series of hearings to examine the filibuster, saying that adoption of the rules at the beginning of each Congress through his Constitutional Option would restore accountability to the Senate,” according to a press release.
Udall, a member of the Senate Rules Committee, questioned panelists during the hearing titled, “Examining the Filibuster: Legislative Proposals to Change Senate Procedures.” Panelists included Gregory Koger, political science professor at the University of Miami; Barbara Sinclair, Marvin Hoffenberg Professor of American Politics Emerita at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Elizabeth Rybici, an analyst with the Congressional Research Service.
“Wouldn’t you think if we had a tradition of adopting rules every two years that that would bring accountability to the system more than anything else?” Udall asked the panelists. “Because each side would know that if it abused the rules, those rules could be changed every two years.”
Under the Constitution, Udall argues that the Senate has the right to adopt its rules of procedure by a simple majority at the beginning of the new Congress. Since 1959, the Senate rules have included language mandating that they continue from one Congress to the next, unless modified in accordance with the rules. However, Senate Rule XXII requires the approval of “two-thirds of the senators present and voting” in order to limit debate on a change to the rules. This provision, which effectively prevents a majority of the Senate from ever amending its rules, directly conflicts with the Constitution’s guarantee that “each House may determine the Rules of its proceedings.”
(credit image – nytimes)