Greg Sargent Opens Fire on the Anonymice Inside the Washington Post Newsroom
Liveblogging World War II: June 28, 1940

Changing the Rules of the U.S. Senate by Majority Vote in Midstream

Jon Walker:

Byrd Did Not Just Write the Book on Senate, He Rewrote Its Rules: Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH) and James Abourezk (D-SD) performed a post-cloture filibuster... by offering a slew of amendments... forcing a roll-call vote for each.... Byrd raised a point of order to require the chair [Mondale] to rule all post-cloture dilatory amendments out of order. When Metzenbaum and Abourezk lost their appeal of the chair’s ruling, Byrd used the new precedent to rule all of their amendments out of order. With this he created the precedent that a bill, after securing the needed cloture vote, could not be stopped.

Just one year later, Byrd... afraid that the nominee would face a double filibuster: the motion to proceed to executive session and then the motion to proceed to the first nominee. So... Byrd offered a motion to proceed to executive session to consider the first nominee. This was declared a violation of Senate precedent, but Byrd won a simple majority appeal of the ruling by a 54-38 vote.... [I]n 1979, Byrd faced the possibility of a filibuster of several of his proposed rule changes at the beginning of a new Congress. He stated clearly that he believed in the right of a simple majority of Senators to change the rules as Congress began its session. The threat, while never executed, helped Byrd enact many changes to Senate rules....

Byrd, the man who was seen as the great defender of Senate tradition, did not hesitate to use a simple majority vote to change the rules...