WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate asked a federal judge Monday to dismiss a citizen lobbying group's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Senate rules setting a 60-vote threshold for defeating filibusters.
Emmet J. Bondurant, a lawyer representing Common Cause in the case, said the nation's Founding Fathers never intended to allow a minority in the Senate to block a majority from considering a bill. But that's what the rules now allow, he told U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan.
The Senate's lawyer in the case, Thomas Caballero, said the Constitution gives the Senate the authority to make its own rules.
Sullivan gave no indication when he might rule on the Senate's motion to dismiss the case.
Joining Common Cause in the suit were four Democratic House members and three illegal immigrants who complain they're subject to being deported because a GOP-led filibuster in 2010 prevented the Senate from voting on a bill that would have given them a legal path to citizenship.
The case was heard as Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid weighs trying to change the Senate rules to narrow the use of filibusters. Reid has complained that Republicans are using the maneuver to block Democrats from advancing President Barack Obama's agenda.
Reid wants the ability to bring a bill before the Senate with the approval of a simple majority of its 100 members. A minority of 41 opponents could still resort to a filibuster to prevent the Senate from voting on the bill itself, but only by talking continuously about it on the Senate floor.
That's the public conception of a filibuster, perhaps gleaned from the 1939 movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," in which actor Jimmy Stewart delays a vote on a bill by talking non-stop on the Senate floor for 24 hours before collapsing from exhaustion. In their latest incarnation, filibusters can be carried out with little to no debate when just a single senator objects.