Durbin, Kirk weigh in on filibuster reform

January 4, 2011

Emily Wilensky

(WBEZ/Emily Wilensky)
Republican Senator Mark Kirk says the filibuster is an important tool to give voice to minority legislators.

Democratic Illinois Senator Dick Durbin says he supports a proposal by Senate Democrats that would set new limits on filibusters. Durbin says rules allowing senators to simply raise an objection to start a filibuster need to change.

 “If you file a filibuster in the Senate, park yourself at your desk,” he said. “If it’s a matter of principle that the Senate stop working for 30 hours, (then) spend 30 hours at your desk and explain that to the American people.”
 
The current rule allows any senator to anonymously file an objection. Lawmakers then need 60 votes to end the debate and put a bill to vote. Illinois junior Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican, says he doesn't want the minority voice to be compromised by changes to the procedure.
 
“The essence of Senate is to protect the minority,” he said. “If you drive over minority rights you may live to highly regret that decision.” Democrats say Republicans have been abusing Senate rules to excessively filibuster and block key pieces of legislation.