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Friday, November 9, 2012

The End of the Filibuster?

Posted by on Fri, Nov 9, 2012 at 4:53 PM

Greg Sargent over at the Washington Post says the reconfigured Senate might be able to pass filibuster reform:

In 2011, the Senate voted on a proposal to force Senators to employ a “talking filibuster,” requiring a more public role in filibustering that might dissuade the practice. It failed, but 39 Senators who will be in office next year voted Yes. Senators who did not vote Yes — such as John Kerry and Daniel Inouye — have come out for reforms. Harry Reid made news this week by saying the time for reform has arrived. That’s 42 Senators.

On Tuesday, seven Dems were elected to the Senate, all of whom have pledged to back reform. So does newly elected independent Angus King. That’s 50.

The upshot is that filibuster reform might make the Republicans less obstructionist, making the government more functional. "The filibuster," he writes, "has become a tool that the minority can use to paralyze government at its most basic functional level, purely for partisan ends, in order to render the majority a failure, no matter what the nature of the majority’s legislative aims."

Majorities have always hated filibusters. But they're romantic, in a Cato the Younger sort of way—when they're judicious and principled and not being chronically overused. (Filibuster reform might also involve only letting the minority party use it a handful of times in each Congress.)

I guess we'll have to see how badly the Republicans abuse it—and how badly they piss off independent Angus King. They're not off to a great start.


Comments (13) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
The House, the only really democratically representative organ of the US Government, eliminated the filibuster in 1842. Why not the Senate?

Actually, if you truly want majority rule, we should have the House of Representatives make all the decisions because only they represent the true make up of the population.

The Senate, Presidency and Judicial system are all rigged.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on November 9, 2012 at 4:58 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 2
Your mom is rigged.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on November 9, 2012 at 5:05 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 3
Now if only we could get rid of gerrymandering.

Think of all those poor Gerrys mandering away in their mom's basements, which are now flooded.
Posted by Will in Seattle on November 9, 2012 at 5:09 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 4
But they're romantic, in a Cato the Younger sort of way

Sure, when it's actually a Jimmy Stewart saga of reading the dictionary for twelve hours straight. A procedural filibuster is nothing other than obstructionism. And nothing will be stopping the Republicans from pulling a Strom Thurmond every time the Democrats try to raise taxes if the procedural filibuster is done away with.
Posted by keshmeshi on November 9, 2012 at 5:41 PM · Report this
Grrr 5
I'm so glad Selina Meyer was behind this bill too.
Posted by Grrr on November 9, 2012 at 5:43 PM · Report this
venomlash 6
@1: What, the House isn't rigged? Come on, it's been gerrymandered to Sheol and back. I hear that more votes were cast for Democratic candidates than Republican ones in the House races, belying the GOP's control over the House.
Posted by venomlash on November 9, 2012 at 5:57 PM · Report this
Fnarf 7
The whole purpose of the filibuster is to stymie the majority; in fact, the whole purpose of the Senate is to stymie the majority. Remember, it wasn't even an elective body, originally; Senators used to be picked by state legislatures. The Founding Fathers were very suspicious of democratic majorities, which they tended to call "mobs". But in actuality the filibuster has always been the last bulwark against progressivism and decency. The Senate itself hasn't really been a place where important things happened since Lyndon Johnson ran it, and even then he was only able to do so by using his exceptional energy to end-run around the dinosaurs. The Senate hasn't been a live body since the 1850s, except maybe for Roosevelt's "Hundred Days" -- and again the energy was coming from elsewhere.

There is no element of government today more hidebound, more sterile, dusty and useless and yet ridiculously pompous. Maybe that can change. Maybe the Senate can become something not embarrassing. I hope so.
Posted by Fnarf on November 9, 2012 at 8:18 PM · Report this
I'm actually surprised that the Republicans haven't approached Angus King. You would think, considering the drubbing they got in the elections, that they would be trying to do whatever they could to shore up their voting numbers in the Senate.
Posted by Calpete on November 9, 2012 at 8:42 PM · Report this
Not really useful without a majority in the House.
Posted by NMSpaz on November 9, 2012 at 11:25 PM · Report this
the idiot formerly known as kk 10
The filibuster may have its place (and I'm not convinced of that), but if it does have a place, it is a place for the righteously motivated Senator who is prepared to read names from a telephone directory for hours on end, not for a bunch of lazy shits who refuse to take a stand unless there are 60 solid votes.
Posted by the idiot formerly known as kk on November 9, 2012 at 11:58 PM · Report this

Yes, we might indeed want to step back and remember that the purpose of the overall structure of the US government itself is to stymie the majority.

The reasons for designing it that way were questionable (a fear of ochlocracy was in vogue, as you note), but subsequent history has certainly shown us that populism can be very, very ugly, at times.

I'm not sure the Senate is quite as shitty as you make it out to be; it certainly doesn't look any worse than the house, and it hasn't been nearly as bad as the executive branch for long stretches during the last 45 years.
Posted by robotslave on November 10, 2012 at 1:20 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 12
I think that to a limited (and I mean LIMITED way) the filibuster can serve a useful purpose in only the rare, once in 15 or 20 years circumstance.

But impertinent children in the GOP have abused it to the point the filibuster to become totalitarian in it's use. It needs to go
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on November 10, 2012 at 4:11 AM · Report this
Neither party has much of moral leg to stand on re: the filibuster. It does seem like it's anti-process and shouldn't be part of procedure.
Posted by fetish on November 10, 2012 at 7:54 AM · Report this

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