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Letters to the Editor: Constitution lets the Senate grind itself to a halt with the filibuster

The U.S. Capitol at sunset
The sun sets on the U.S. Capitol building on March 4.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

To the editor: It is strange that two such eminent attorneys — UC Berkeley law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky and New York University law professor Burt Neuborne — would advocate that Vice President Kamala Harris, in her capacity as president of the Senate, declare the filibuster unconstitutional and not provide any real support for that recommendation.

Chemerinsky and Neuborne note that “determinations” by Vice Presidents Richard Nixon, Hubert H. Humphrey and Nelson Rockefeller were advisory, yet they say that a similar action by Harris would be through a “power to rule.” They offer no source for such a power.

Article I, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states that the “vice president of the United States shall be president of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they shall be equally divided.” Article I, Section 5 tells us that each house of Congress “may determine the rules of its proceedings.”

The Constitution says Congress is pretty much free to conduct its business as it pleases and that, barring ties, the vice president has nothing to say about it.

Donald J. Loundy, Simi Valley

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To the editor: Chemerinsky and Neuborne suggest that Harris rule the 60-vote filibuster threshold unconstitutional, an action that would trigger the full Senate to respond.

This would have a sensational and probably positive outcome. Forcing the whole Senate to consider a more appropriate use of the filibuster will give the entire process a much-needed overhaul.

Harris setting aside the filibuster will bring the circus to a halt. It will make for good political theater and is far overdue.

Dean Katz, Hollywood

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To the editor: I’m not a dean or a law professor, but I can say that the mental gymnastics performed by Chemerinsky and Neuborne qualify them for a coaching spot at their respective universities.

We all know that each state gets two senators regardless of their size or population. There is no unconstitutional imbalance because of the population in Wyoming compared with California.

I’d refer the professors to the House for the question regarding proportional representation.

Robert Filacchione, Fullerton


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