Before he was elected to the Senate, Mike Crapo served in the House as a member of the majority, and as a member of minority. He has seen firsthand how the House rules give total power to the controlling party.
He has since served in the Senate — again, in both the majority and the minority. He has been on both sides of the Senate’s cumbersome filibuster rules, which essentially requires the support of a 60-senator supermajority to move legislation. He has seen the rule stymie proposals he vigorously supported — and slam the brakes on some ideas he vigorously opposed.
And so, when our editorial board asked Crapo what he thinks of a rule that keeps the Senate from doing much of anything, the senior senator provided an interesting, scholarly defense of stalemate (and you can listen to it for yourself). He sees the filibuster rule as an extension of the structure of the Senate, which is designed to protect a threatened political class: small states, and the lawmakers elected to protect their interests. Unlike the iron-fisted majority rule of the House, the Senate is designed to force give and take.
“The Senate is supposed to be the place where the minority has a better chance to voice its positions,” Crapo said.
That doesn’t just sound high-minded; it sounds sensible. And it’s why Crapo supports the filibuster — a Senate rule that probably isn’t going anywhere, since it would take a two-thirds vote to dump it.
My problem isn’t with the premise behind the filibuster. My problem is with its implementation. The filibuster has evolved from an instrument to coax bipartisanship to a blunt impediment. Neither party has been above using it for purposes of veto. And after the 2012 election, the Senate figures to be nearly evenly divided. So, expect more of the same. For better, or more likely for worse.