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Forget the Myth: 51 Senators Can End the Filibuster Today

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Forget reconciliation. Forget the filibuster and cloture. Forget the "supermajority." Forget needing sixty-seven senators to change "the rules." And forget waiting until 2011.

Forget this mythology senators would have you believe. There are no unicorns.

We're one step away from returning majority rule to the U.S. Senate and passing a robust health care bill. According to the Constitution, as affirmed by the U. S. Supreme Court, the Senate can change its rules at any time by a simple majority vote.

With the mere threat of filibuster, Republicans have done what terrorists and foreign enemies have failed to do. They've crippled the government of the United States.

And acting as if they are powerless before a conquering army, a weak Democratic leadership has become the Grand Enablers of the Party of No.

Abandoning the very concept of democracy and denying the Constitution, senators keep repeating the mantra that it takes sixty-seven votes to change a rule. Wrong.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) wants to modify the filibuster rule. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) wants to change it in 2011.

But they're making it too complicated and they're ignoring the court ruling that confirmed that a simple majority of Senators can change a rule.

The language of the court in U S v. BALLIN, 144 U.S. 1 (1892) is simple and clear:

"... The constitution empowers each house to determine its rules of proceedings ... It is no objection to the validity of a rule that a different one has been prescribed and in force for a length of time. The power to make rules is not one which once exercised is exhausted. It is a continuous power, always subject to be exercised by the house, and, within the limitations suggested, absolute and beyond the challenge of any other body or tribunal.

The constitution provides that 'a majority of each [house] shall constitute a quorum to do business.' In other words, when a majority are present the house is in a position to do business. Its capacity to transact business is then established, created by the mere presence of a majority, and does not depend upon the disposition or assent or action of any single [144 U.S. 1, 6] member or fraction of the majority present. All that the constitution requires is the presence of a majority, and when that majority are present the power of the house arises."

It won't be easy for members of "the most exclusive club in the world" to move into the 21st Century -- or back to the enlightened days of 1787. But it's time to end the legends and mythology.

Senators relish their personal power and they honor their fellow senators by maintaining the filibuster rule. But by doing so, they dishonor the principles of democracy and they dishonor the people's demand for them to govern.

Any senator who votes to keep the filibuster, in a form that allows total obstruction, must publicly defend their refusal to support majority rule.

Don't let them claim they want to protect the rights of the minority. Rules can be written to ensure fairness to the minority, even one individual senator. They are owed fairness, not the dictatorial power of obstruction.

A minority block must not be allowed to keep the majority from governing. In light of the overwhelming pressures we face today, the filibuster is an anachronism we can no longer afford.

So, fifty-one Senators can abolish or amend the filibuster rule at any time. They can do it today. They only have to summon the courage to act.

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