Changing the Senate rules to reduce partisan gridlock is a hot-button issue inside the Beltway and on the campaign trail.
As the rules currently stand, only a supermajority of 60 Senate members can overcome opposition to pass legislation and confirm judicial appointments.
But no party has a supermajority in the current Senate, so just the threat of a filibuster can hold up bills, nominations, appointments, and even ordinary actions like naming a post office. (Learn more about using senate rules to block debate and votes.)
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, believes the ease of which a filibuster can occur is the problem.
“I don’t think you should be allowed to just say ‘I’m going to filibuster’ and not even be required to give a single speech on the Senate floor,” she said.
On the campaign trail, Virginia Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine agrees.
“You shouldn’t be able to filibuster without standing on your feet…It only works if your colleagues and the American public can watch you and hold you accountable and say, ‘You know what? That’s a good point,’” he said.
Massachusetts Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren also sees Senate rules reform as a path to greater accountability. As her website notes:
“We need…to reform the filibuster, beginning with a requirement that anyone who wants to stop the people's business must go out onto the Senate floor and actually filibuster, live and in person, so that the American people see precisely who is creating gridlock.”
Wisconsin Republican Senate candidate Tommy Thompson believes the problem with the rules is that they are outdated.
“The 60 percent rule in the U.S. Senate should be done away with. All those procedures in the United States Senate should be modernized so that 52 percent, 51 percent, 50 percent of the people in the Senate can make policy and move this country forward,” he said.
His opponent in the Wisconsin race, Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin, concurs.
“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,” she said.