The Constitutional Option to Change Senate Rules and Procedures: A Majoritarian Means to over Come the Filibuster. - Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy
INTRODUCTION In the United States Senate, the majority has the power to decide what will be debated, but the minority can often determine whether that debate will ever end in a final vote. No one questions that a majority of a quorum can exercise the rulemaking power. But, for almost any debatable proposition, forty-one members can prevent the Senate from taking a final vote, even though as many as fifty-nine Senators support the proposition. (1) In addition, the Senate cloture rule provides that for any change to the Senate rules (including the rules governing debate), one-third of members present and voting plus one can prevent the Senate from resolving a filibuster and taking a vote. (2) And Senate Rule V declares that these rules are perpetual: "The rules of the Senate shall continue from one Congress to the next Congress unless they are changed as provided in these rules." (3) At issue is whether the Senate cloture rule is carried over from one Congress to the next by Rule V and binds successor majorities. If so, the conclusion would seem to be that absent a change of heart among a sufficient minority, even a substantial majority is helpless to overcome a filibuster on a rules change.