Can Retiring Senator Evan Bayh End the Filibuster?

An unlikely leader emerges to fix Washington's greatest obstruction

This article is from the archive of our partner .

It's no secret that the filibuster, by making it drastically more difficult in recent months for the Senate to accomplish anything, has hamstrung all of government, particularly President Obama's political agenda. We've heard dubious predictions for the death of the filibuster before. But, as The Atlantic's James Fallows explained, retiring Democratic Senator Evan Bayh has an opportunity to finally make it happen. In a lengthy op-ed in today's New York Times, Bayh proposes not exactly that, but a typically Bayhian compromise. Here's what Bayh suggests and pundits evaluating whether it will make a difference.

  • Evan Bayh's Filibuster-Lite  Senator Bayh explains his proposal: Reduce the number of voted required to overturn from 60 to 55, require 35 Senators to back a filibuster, and make them go through with actually filibustering instead of just threatening it. "During my father’s era, filibusters were commonly used to block civil rights legislation and, in 1975, the requisite number of votes was reduced to 60 from 67. The challenges facing the country today are so substantial that further delay imperils the Republic and warrants another reduction in the supermajority requirement."
  • Does He Have The Will?  The Atlantic's James Fallows allows some optimism. "I will confess that most of the reader messages I received boiled down to: 'Don't get your hopes up, he has never rocked the boat.' OK. But in keeping with the 'today is the first day of the rest of your political life' philosophy, I'm going to judge by the evidence as long as it's positive." Fallows hopes Bayh will take Mr. Smith Goes To Washington as inspiration.
  • Bayh's Amazing Liberal Turn  NBC News' Chuck Todd notes that Bayh, a moderate centrist, occasionally enrages liberals for joining with Republicans. "Evan Bayh just put on a release pledging to 'fix the filibuster.' Will this push win him over those on the left who love to hate him?" In the case of The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn, it already has. "Things I never thought I'd write: Evan Bayh is making a lot of sense in his NYT oped."
  • We Can Already Make Them Filibuster  Time's Karen Tumulty cheers Bayh, but notes that the Senate already has the power to force filibustering Senators to actually go through with their filibuster. "Of course, it is possible to force a filibustering Senator to filibuster, even without such a petition. Senator Bayh might want to discuss that possibility with Majority Leader Harry Reid."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.