Friday, July 16, 2010


As regular readers know, my Big Three reforms I'd like to see in the Senate are:

  • Majority vote on all executive branch nominations
  • No holds on judicial nominations
  • Superbill!  
Superbill would replace reconciliation: the majority party would get one bill a year free from filibusters.  Here's the basic idea:
Replace reconciliation with a free bill: one bill a year with a time certain for consideration. That's right, Superbill! One bill that can't be filibustered. What could the majority stick in it? Whatever they wanted! It could, if they have the votes, contain the entire legislative agenda. But the bill would be subject to amendments (limited only to prevent an infinite filibuster-by-amendment), meaning that the minority would have some tools available to sink it (sauce for the goose ... the amendments would need just a simple majority, too). Superbill would have to pass the House, too, so that's another constraint. I don't think the House would need to be involved in creating it ... from the House's point of view, it's just a bill (and it might well include multiple bills that passed the House separately). Of course, there would be significant coordination problems, but that's just another constraint.
The problem is that Superbill! is a sort of, well, dorky name.  It's just a placeholder -- I'll be happy to rename it after any Senator to take it up as his or her proposal.  The Udall bill?  The Harkin bill?  The Bennet bill?  The McCaskill bill?  The Reid bill?  Courageous Republicans: the Coburn bill? 

Meanwhile, if anyone has a better idea for a placeholder name, please suggest it in comments. 

And yes, I know that plenty of people believe that the Senate should be completely controlled by the majority party, just as the House has been for the last thirty or so years.  That's an argument we could have on democratic theory grounds, but in practice what matters is that it isn't what Senators want, and it's fairly unlikely that we'll get it.  What's much more likely is that at some time in the not-distant future, with unified government but gridlock in the Senate, the majority party will credibly threaten to impose majority rule by majority vote, and the minority party will (probably) negotiate for a compromise.  In my view, adding Superbill (along with nomination reform, and a few other minor changes) is a good fit.  But, yeah, it likely needs a better name, so, help!


  1. Majority agenda, or majority agenda bill

    Leader's bill (referring to the SML, not a general valorization of the concept of leadership)

  2. How about a simpler solution that maintains most of the current process, but brings better representation. Instead of 60 votes, make it votes representing 60% of the US population. Use the most recent census and assign half of each state's population to each of the state's senators. I've just found it remarkable how low of a percentage of the population is reflected by those holding up the filibuster. Make them work a little harder.

    Looking forward to today's Friday baseball post.

  3. Alkali,

    I like Leader's Bill. Majority Agenda Bill is too propaganda-like to me, but Leader's Bill...hmmm. That's a contender.


    I'm not sure it's Constitutional...but I'm also pretty confident that it there's no plausible combination of Senators that would go for that as a compromise, and I'm most interested in things that could actually get done.

    And thanks for the baseball comment! Now I just need something to write about...

  4. It should be named after the guy in the Old Spice commercials because it would be awesome, just like him.

  5. It should be called Powerbill, and Americans could buy tickets to have a 1 in 100m chance to propose an amendment to it.


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