Filibuster reform

EDITOR: Your Jan. 3 editorial asked, "Will a new Congress be more effective?" In its opening days, the Senate will have a chance to decide the rules that govern it — and potentially the way we end up answering that question.

The talking filibuster is a tradition in the Senate but with no history in the Constitution. It has been used more in the last six years than it was used in the six decades between 1920 and 1980. Rules changes have turned the filibuster into a silent objection, and over-use makes it so a 60-vote majority is now required for even the most trivial bit of business. What's more, secret holds stall the institution's work anonymously. Silent filibusters leave us less informed and the Senate less productive.

At the beginning of the session, the new Senate can vote for changes with a simple majority. Oregon's Sen. Jeff Merkley has put forward a reasonable reform package, requiring senators to speak their objections and doing away with secret holds. The John McCain/Carl Levin proposal is less effective, not requiring members to stand and talk.

I hope readers will contact Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and ask for their support for Merkley's filibuster reform.