The filibuster remains in the news as a hurdle to progress on everything from the minimum wage to voting rights. So here is a proposal on the filibuster that everyone should be able to support.
Rather than completely eliminate it – as I’ve argued in the past – the Senate could modify its rules so that in order to filibuster a bill, you have to physically stand at a lectern, speak, and hold the floor for as long as you can stand. Let’s call it the Mr. Smith Goes to Washington rule.
In that classic American film, Jimmy Stewart’s character talks non-stop on the Senate floor for 25 hours in a bid to delay a corrupt appropriations bill and defend his own reputation against scandalous (and completely fabricated) accusations.
The Mr. Smith Goes to Washington rule would give the minority party the chance to delay a bill and rally the American people against it. If a bill is as bad as opponents claim, they could still potentially stop it. However, it would not give a minority of senators a veto that does not exist in the Constitution. Once opponents cede the floor, the bill moves to a vote.
It’s a fair and democratic compromise. Opponents of a bill will still have an opportunity to slow and potentially kill unpopular legislation. Meanwhile, it will restore the concept of majority rule in the Senate and make it a functioning governing body again.