Whether the decline began with the sliming of Robert Bork or the segregationist filibusters of civil rights legislation, the modern U.S. Senate has been on a downward spiral for some time.
What the Senate needs now is an overhaul of its rules, one that preserves the rights of the minority in some cases—key legislation, for example, and perhaps appointments to the Supreme Court—while also reflecting the speed at which the world moves today. Simple majorities on appropriations and time limits on debate over minor nominees are two obvious reforms. They could be traded, for example, for agreement on the high court vacancies and how long those debates should last.
The Senate’s dysfunction is astonishing to Americans who have to make things actually run, who have to do their jobs to keep their jobs. Donald Trump has shrewdly taken aim at the Senate’s vulnerability as an issue. It would be best for both parties to head off change imposed from pressure from the outside with change organically orchestrated from within by those with care for the body and its original design.
It is time to extend what I call the “Reid-rule reforms,” and it’s time to do so now.