A special Senate task force has been appointed to examine whether or not rules surrounding the filibuster should be modified, the Hill reported Monday. This new look at the procedural hurdle is the latest sign that Republicans are putting tough pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to get legislation through the body and make it look like the GOP is a party capable of governing.
The filibuster is often used by the minority party to stop legislation from proceeding to a vote or from proceeding to the process of adding amendments to legislation before it is considered in the Senate. Changes to the filibuster have attracted the approval of House Republicans as well as junior senators who are upset that the Republican-controlled Congress has only forced President Barack Obama to veto one bill this year.
"We’re going to take a serious look at whether Senate rules ought to be changed in order to make the Senate work more effectively," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said. Alexander, who is a close ally of McConnell, will take part in the task force. "A number of the new senators have come in looking around saying, ‘Why are we doing things this way and not that way.'" Alexander is joined by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.
Filibusters require three-fifths of the Senate, or 60 votes, in order to proceed and limit the amount of debate on legislation. The tactic is most popularly known for the high-profile moments when senators stand in front of the Senate and speak until they no longer can do so in order to wear down competition and draw attention to the votes. More commonly, however, the threat of filibuster is enough to deter leaders from moving on legislation without 60 votes.
Filibuster rules have been changed before. When they were in the majority in the Senate, Democrats took away the ability of Republicans to filibuster judicial nominees made by the president in 2013.