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News Opinion

Senate filibuster rule contradicted the Framers' intent [Letter]

It is most disturbing that former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and so many current members of the U.S. Senate and House do not understand that minority rule in either house of Congress was one of the fears expressed by the Framers of the Constitution ("The nuclear option: then and now," Dec. 1).

The "nuclear option" of eliminating the filibuster for certain appointments is not a reversal of the intent of the Framers — it is a return to their original intent. Indeed, the entire portion of Rule 22 of the Senate that requires any vote to be more than a majority of the quorum present is in violation of the higher ranking "supreme law of the land."

The Framers in 1787 deliberately asserted that a simple majority of the members of each House was a quorum and that there would be only a few votes requiring a two-thirds majority for passage.

Three of those votes were in the House, and they were required to override a presidential veto, expel a member or approve an amendment to the Constitution. The same three votes applied in the Senate, with the addition of two more two-thirds votes that were required to approve treaties or to remove an impeached official from office.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention agreed that the two-thirds requirement was to be applied only to the quorum as defined by either the House or the Senate. They rejected every motion to require that the two-thirds rule be based on the full House or Senate as well as any other proposal for a super-majority requirement.

The 1787 discussions regarding the Congress did not accept in any form the notion that a few members could control, direct or obstruct the decisions of the either house. The intent was simple majority rule except for a few limited instances. Every member of both houses was to represent the states and the people and work together as equals, not be directed by a handful of partisan leaders. Federalist Papers 22, 58 and 75 spell out the convention's rejection of minority control or obstruction.

To stretch the meaning of the power of each house to "determine the Rules of its Proceedings" into the authority to impose a requirement for more than a constitutional "quorum to do business" contradicts the stated intent of the Framers.

Our republic form of government has been damaged by a GOP minority in the Senate and a minority faction of the majority GOP in the House. Meanwhile the media mislead the people into thinking that the problem is in both parties, by referring to "partisan bickering," when it is actually the behavior of only one of them.

Ronald P. Bowers, Timonium

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Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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