“The Senate that Senators Want”

Monkey Cage guest post from Eric Schickler and Greg Wawro:

Events in the Senate over the past few weeks offer two clear lessons.  First, a simple majority in the Senate has the power – and indeed has long had the power – to change how the institution operates.  The strategy proposed by Harry Reid – which essentially duplicated the strategy proposed by Republican leader Bill Frist (R-TN) in 2005, which in turn echoed a strategy promoted by liberals in the 1950s-70s and by Republican leader Nelson Aldrich as far back as January 1891 – has been available to a determined Senate majority at least since the nineteenth century – as we discuss in our book on the filibuster.  The fact that the Republican minority relented in the nominations fight indicates that the threat of “reform by resolution” is real and that the Senate is not locked into its rules by virtue of its past institutional history.  Second, the filibuster persists because a majority of senators has consistently preferred a system in which the minority can block action to one in which a simple majority decides every issue.  Senators do not want their Chamber to become the House.

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