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Letters: The filibuster and the framers

January 05, 2013

Re "Disarm the filibuster," Opinion, Jan. 2

Joyce Appleby, in her otherwise excellent critique of the Senate's filibuster rule, leaves out the most telling constitutional argument against it.

The vice president is given only one job by the Constitution beyond succeeding the president if necessary. That job is to break a tie vote in the Senate. Clearly the framers of the Constitution assumed that a majority vote would normally decide issues before the Senate, but since each state has two senators, there is always the possibility of a tie; so they put in a method to avoid legislative paralysis.

The use of the filibuster today makes this provision meaningless. Just as it would be unconstitutional for the Senate to decide by rule to approve treaties by only a majority vote, it cannot decide by rule that any issue of consequence requires a 60-vote supermajority.

Jonathan Hubbell

Laguna Niguel


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