WASHINGTON -- The effort to reform the Senate's filibuster rules may get another backer if Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is elected to the chamber in November.
Most legislation needs just 51 votes to pass the U.S. Senate. But senators in the minority party have consistently been waving around the threat of a filibuster -- when 60 votes would be needed to force any substantive vote -- to hold up measures in the last several years.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Baldwin said she believes a "solid agreement" should be reached between Republicans and Democrats that the rules should not be "used and abused" or the rules need to be changed.
"I've been following a number of the suggestions that have been offered up by a number of senators seeking reform and think that a number of those options are very sensible," Baldwin said. "I don’t want to ever preclude the U.S. Senate from being able to have thoughtful and comprehensive debates on weighty matters. But I think there is a way where you could reduce the number of votes required to bring a measure forward the longer it’s been pending in the Senate."
"There have been a number of proposals that say you start with a 60-vote threshold, and maybe after a month, it is lowered -- until a point that after a matter has been pending in the Senate for a very long time -- where everyone has had adequate opportunity for input -- the threshold needed to move forward would be a simple majority," she added.
One such proposal has been made by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to gradually lower the number of votes needed to break a filibuster. So the first vote on a cloture motion would require 60 votes, the second would require 57, and so on, until the number fell to 51.
Another high-profile Democratic Senate candidate -- Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts -- also recently came out in favor of filibuster reform, saying if a senator wants to filibuster a bill, he or she "should be required to step out onto the Senate floor and actually stand up and talk every single time."
With the recall elections over in Wisconsin, the focus in that state will now turn to Baldwin's Senate race, in which four Republicans -- state Assembly Leader Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), businessman Eric Hovde, former Rep. Mark Neumann and former Gov. Tommy Thompson -- are vying to face her in November. Baldwin spoke at the Wisconsin Democratic Party convention this week, as well as the annual gathering of progressive activists and bloggers known as Netroots Nation, held in Providence, R.I.
Baldwin said she didn't believe the victory of Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the recall election would affect her campaign, saying the state and federal issues involved were distinct.
"The recall was about activities in Madison," she said. "And the fall election -- my election, the president’s reelection -- is about Washington and bringing change to Washington."
"There's much greater unanimity in the state of Wisconsin that there's a profound disconnect between the policy debates coming out of this Tea Party Congress and people’s real lives," she said. "There’s a much greater consensus that this Tea Party agenda is completely disconnected to people's real struggles. And they want someone who’s going to be a champion for working- and middle-class families and individuals."
A poll last month by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, showed Baldwin trailing Hovde and Neumann by 4 percentage points, and Thompson by 5, with a 4-point margin of error. The poll did not ask about Fitzgerald.
Baldwin believes her campaign will be helped by the divisive Republican primary, she said. While the Republican candidates go negative and attack one other, she will be able to stay focused on the general election since no other Democrat is running for the seat, she said.
"While they're having this divisive, negative brawl," she said, "I've been seizing the opportunity to travel statewide, to hold numerous events, listen to people and organize my campaign statewide."
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