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Filibuster Reform: Good or Bad, It Moves Power from the Senate to the President

By Joel Anderson | 07/18/2013 | 8:24 AM

U.S. Senate tradition and rules make it the branch of government where, unlike the House of Representatives, the minority can have significantcontrolling influence. This power of the minority is most pronounced in the power of advice and consent on presidential appointments.

Conservatives long grimaced at the Democrats’ refusal to approve the appointments of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.  Equally, President Obama’s second term has seen the ire of liberals over the Senate’s refusal to approve presidential appointments. 

However, rules have changed because of a procedural amendment, brokered by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), with respect to non-judicial presidential appointments of the executive branch.

The agreement (which can be undone by future Senates, but only as a rejection of their tradition of compromise and courtesy) limits the filibuster on executive branch appointments by returning power to the executive office and removing power from the Senate. This compromise came from frustration of both parties, and not from a deep analysis by the sitting senators of the power they just gave away.

I tend to agree that there should be very limited rejection of a president's executive branch appointments, but that has not been the case and practice of the opposition party in the Senate for many, many years. The Senate has now removed power from itself and set a new tradition that  centralizes more power in the executive branch and removes a check on the individuals the president appoints.

Time will tell whether it will be good or bad.

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About Joel Anderson

Joel Anderson

Joel D. Anderson is president and CEO of the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA). Based in Des Plaines, Ill., IWLA is the 120-year-old association of the warehouse-based third-party logistics industry, with 500 members in the U.S. and Canada. Before joining IWLA, Anderson spent 28 years at the California Trucking Association, the last 13 as executive vice president and CEO. An economist by training and profession, Anderson was also a past board member of Cascade Sierra Solutions. He is a frequent speaker before supply chain industry groups.



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