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Friday, May 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Filibuster Reform Case Adjourned for Good

WASHINGTON (CN) - A bid to reform U.S. Senate filibuster rules will not see a Supreme Court-led revival after the justices declined to intervene in the case Monday.

Nonpartisan citizen's lobbying organization Common Cause had joined several Democrats from the House of Representatives and individuals facing deportation because of stalled immigration reform to file the federal complaint over the issue. They sought to declare the age-old weapon of the Senate minority unconstitutional and to replace it with a rule more fitting of democratic principles.

Citing his fear of disrupting the separation of powers, however, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the complaint for lack of standing in 2012. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, though on a different basis, this past April, and the Supreme Court refused to grant Common Cause a writ of certiorari Monday.

Per its custom, the Supreme Court did not comment on the order.

Senate Rule XXII requires a motion for cloture, a cumbersome procedure that requires 60 votes and 30 additional hours of debate to force the Senate to vote on a bill. If the matter involves amending the Senate rules, it requires 67 votes.

Common Cause and the Democrats said that the rule is unconstitutional because it "gives a minority of senators the power to dictate electoral outcomes or veto bills in the Senate or presidential appointments, contrary to the will of the majority." By their numbers, over 400 bills passed by the House of Representatives - many with "broad bipartisan support - during the 111th Congress died in the Senate without ever having been debated because of the filibuster rule. And with an increasingly hostile political arena, Democrats complain that filibuster is just another way for Republicans to embarrass President Barack Obama and stymie his agenda. "Since the election of President Obama in 2008, the minority party in the Senate used Rule XXII to prevent debate and prevent the Senate from voting whether to confirm well over 100 nominations by the President to fill critical vacancies in the Executive and Judicial Branches," the complaint alleged.

The plaintiff Democrats in the case were U.S. Reps. John Lewis, Michael Michaud, Henry Johnson and Keith Ellison. The defendant Senate officials were U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senate Secretary Nancy Erickson, U.S. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer and Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate's parliamentarian.

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