From Vox:

In the current Senate, they don’t. McConnell controls the floor ruthlessly, drawing on a cluttered toolbox of arcane techniques. James Wallner, a longtime Republican Hill staffer now at the R Street Institute, has described some of those tools in an article in the Washington Examiner. At the core is the tactic known as “filling the amendment tree.” To oversimplify, there are only four slots for amendments to a bill at any given time — two first-degree amendments and two second-degree or “perfecting” amendments. By immediately filling all four slots with amendments (it doesn’t matter what they say) and leaving them unresolved, McConnell leaves no room for any other senator to offer an amendment.

Other techniques include bringing up a bill and immediately moving to suspend consideration of the bill, or moving to consider another bill. No other business can be conducted while those motions are pending.

As Wallner often points out, McConnell can exercise this level of control only because other senators don’t challenge him, even allowing “unanimous consent” requests to go through without objection. The “institutionalists” who protect procedures such as the filibuster have consented meekly while McConnell (and, to be fair, Reid to a lesser extent before him) has shut down the Senate. For Republicans, it has been part of their larger acquiescence in the cause of getting Trump appointees and Trump legislation through or, before 2017, blocking Obama’s appointments and legislation, while Democratic leader Chuck Schumer shares an interest in keeping the Senate under control.

But whoever is responsible, this is the Senate now and in the future: an unrepresentative, tightly controlled legislative body. In an open, free-flowing Senate, perhaps there’s a place for the filibuster, giving a minority of senators a way to bring in new ideas as well as to slow things down. But in the closed Senate, the filibuster becomes a simple supermajority requirement, one that’s applied arbitrarily and empowers a relatively small minority — one that in theory might represent as little as 17 percent of the nation’s population — to block the preferences of the majority, for years and years.

In an open Senate, the power to block action might be a worthwhile trade-off for the ability to initiate action. But on its own, it can only be an impediment to democratic decision-making.



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