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Letters: Curtailing the filibuster

November 29, 2012

Re "Fixing the filibuster," Editorial, Nov. 25

Indeed, we should rein in this obnoxious abuse. As you write, "Senators who want to mount a filibuster should have just one chance of doing so" — preferably only once in six years, in my opinion.

As Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein make clear in their book, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks," today's senators use the filibuster infinitely more often than their predecessors did. Worse yet, they have added the shameful custom of the "hold," by which a single senator can secretly stop any legislation or nomination from being debated or coming to a vote.

Let's get rid of these abuses, which darken the reputation of what once was a showcase of American democracy.

Peter H. Merkl

Goleta, Calif.

The suggested reforms to the filibuster rule don't go far enough. Sixty votes to end a filibuster is an impossible hurdle, and 40 to sustain one is too easy.

The best reform would be to reduce the votes needed to stop a filibuster to 55. That threshold would provide the deterrent The Times says we need, but it would still be reachable by a convincing majority.

Robert Kilpatrick

Long Beach

The Senate has to recognize its own incompetence when 97.2% of its work (the percentage of bills that don't pass) is meaningless to the public.

I suggest it implement something similar to the "challenge" rule in the NFL, in which a team can have a referee's call reversed. Simply allow a set number of challenges over a period of time. If a filibuster is not sustained, the number of available challenges is decreased by one. If it is sustained, then the pool of available challenges remains unchanged.

If a losing challenge cost something, perhaps the senators would use the filibuster more judiciously.

Jim Benson



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