Ex-Senators Hoping to Bust Filibusters

Article excerpt

Former Sens. Thomas F. Eagleton and Charles Mathias Jr. say too much talk is cheapening the chamber in which they once served. So they plan a counteroffensive with some talking of their own.

Eagleton, D-Mo., and Mathias, R-Md., are beginning a campaign to end the filibuster.

Under the Senate's rules, the votes of 60 of the chamber's 100 members are needed to end a filibuster - an extraordinary majority that is often impossible to achieve on controversial or highly partisan issues. Passing legislation, by contrast, requires only 51 votes.

When Mathias and Eagleton joined the Senate together in 1968, says Mathias, "it was a matter of grave consequence when you had a filibuster. The Army would bring in cots. Members would plan to stay for several days and nights.

"Now, you have these little mini-filibusters that go on all the time. It seems to me an abuse of the entire legislative process."

Eagleton added: "In any orderly legislative process, there has to be a beginning and an end. With a filibuster, sometimes there is never an end.

"We could see this on health care, where 41 or 42 votes could keep health-care reform legislation from going anywhere."

The two former colleagues, who left the Senate in 1987, have begun sending out letters to rally "grassroots" support for their effort. …