Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Brief History of Senate Procedural Reform

Ezra Klein puts together a timeline of modifications to the filibuster rules. In the 20th century, the ability of the Senate to bring debate to an end has been weakened four times. In a fifth rule change, budget Reconciliation allows for certain Senate functions to be immune from the filibuster. The current rules have been in place since the mid-1970s, the longest such stretch in the last century.

Julius Erving was a great basketball player in his day, but who knows how he would do in a world with a 3-point line.
There is no reason to treat the Senate filibuster rule as sacrosanct, as Senators themselves have demonstrated in the past. If we still lived in a world with the rules of 1975, NBA basketball wouldn't have a 3-point line, NCAA basketball wouldn't have a shot clock, the NFL allowed horse collar tackles, helmets were optional in the NHL, the HANS device had yet to be invented to say nothing of made mandatory, etc. Our understanding of the impact that rules have can change; as that happens, so to should the rules themselves change.

Update/correction: it has been pointed out that Dr. J played several season in the ABA, which adopted a 3-point line in the mid-70s. However the ABA-NBA merger put him pack in a 3-pointless world until the '79-80 season. Clearly I need to know my '70s basketballers better.
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