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How to fix the Senate?

But while more women are seeking state and local offices, not as many run for federal office because they don't want to put their families through the process or are daunted by the amount of money they'd have to raise. In a smart move, the GOP is fielding five women for the Senate in 2010. To increase the number of women in the Senate overall, we need to encourage them to run, instill confidence in them that they can succeed and that it's okay if they don't, donate to their campaigns, and call people out for personal attacks, especially those aimed at candidates' families.

ROB RICHIE

Executive director of FairVote

Today's de facto 60-vote requirement for the Senate to pass legislation and approve nominations undercuts the democratic accountability that comes with elections having clear consequences. It also allows senators to shake down their leadership to serve parochial interests.

But fixing the Senate goes beyond reforming the filibuster rules to the broader question of what powers in a democracy are appropriate for an inherently undemocratic institution -- the only legislative body in the nation in which members do not represent generally equal numbers of people.

The answer comes from reviewing the filibuster's proper role. A minority of senators should not permanently block majorities; rather, the filibuster's power should be to promote greater deliberation and transparency through slowing attempts to rush legislation.

Similarly, the Senate itself should not have the power to trump the House of Representatives. As is the international norm for upper houses, the Senate should only be able to delay legislation, force reconsideration and propose amendments, not block final action.

Redefining Senate powers would require constitutional change, but it would not affect the right of states to equal suffrage in the Senate. Let's think big -- our Founders would want us to learn from our experience and the examples of other nations.


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