Dodd Urges New Senators Not to ‘Destroy’ Senate Over Filibuster Frustration

Posted August 4, 2010 at 4:27pm

Outgoing Sen. Chris Dodd, offering a bit of advice to his younger colleagues, threw cold water on the efforts of first-term Democrats to do away with the filibuster by the next Congress.

“I made a case last night to about 10 freshman Senators, you know: You want to turn this into a unicameral body? What’s the point of having a Senate? If the vote margins are the same as in the House, you might as well close the doors,” the Connecticut Democrat told reporters Wednesday, according to the Huffington Post.

He joined a group of first-term Democrats, gathered by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), to urge them not to “destroy the institution because of your momentary frustrations with it.”

“My concern is they’re reacting to the moment,” said Dodd, who has served five terms in the Senate and is retiring after this year.

A handful of first-term Democrats, including Sens. Tom Udall (N.M.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.), have created varying proposals to whittle down or effectively kill the filibuster rule that allows the minority to thwart legislative action on the floor. A plan by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) would cut short the post-cloture period — generally 30 hours — if there is a lull in floor debate and no lawmaker seeks to be recognized.

Democrats have routinely complained that GOP stalling tactics have eaten away time on the calendar and required them to muster 60 votes to accomplish any legislative goal this year. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told a crowd at the Netroots Nation annual convention last month, “We’re looking at ways to change what has been an abuse” of the filibuster.

Not all members of the Senate Democratic Conference, however, have rallied in support of changing the rules. Before his death this year, Sen. Robert Byrd (W.Va.), the chamber’s longest-serving Member, warned against scrapping the filibuster but said he was open to tweaking rules on motions to proceed, a reform that Democratic Senators and aides say is more likely to see action.

Rules and Administration Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has held a series of hearings on the topic this year as part of a broader look at the issue, and aides acknowledge the likelihood of chasing any significant rules change could diminish if Democrats lose a substantial number of seats in the midterm elections.

One rule change that has picked up steam is the effort to eliminate secret holds. Reid announced Wednesday that he would soon bring up a proposal authored by Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa).

“During the next work period, I am committed to having Senators vote on whether or not to end the use of secret holds in the Senate,” Reid said in a statement. “This bipartisan proposal is a step in the right direction to put transparency above secrecy.”