Filibuster News

by: Daniel De Groot

Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 22:19


Three developments that I'm aware of coming from Netroots Nation 2010 today:

  1. Reid promises filibuster reform.  In the Q&A after his address today, Reid was quite clear that rule reform is needed.  He compared the filibuster to the spitball in baseball, which initially wasn't illegal, but was used only sparingly, but once it began to be abused, baseball had to ban it.  Interesting metaphor.  He didn't give any details of what reform he has in mind though.

  2. Tom Udall promises Senate rule reform.  In the filibuster session that followed Reid's remarks, Udall promised to move that the Senate adopt its rules by majority vote on the first day of the 112th Congress next January.  He is aiming to have this rule change adopted by simple majority, not two-thirds.

  3. Common Cause planning lawsuit.  At the filibuster reform session, someone from Common Cause stood up to announce they will file a federal lawsuit against the filibuster as unconstitutional.  Nothing on their site yet, but hopefully soon.

As a reminder on the filibuster front, by my research, 36 State Senates do not allow the possibility of a filibuster.  If a supermajority of States don't need the filibuster, why does the national Senate?  Table inside.

Daniel De Groot :: Filibuster News

Filibuster Possible (13) No Filibuster (36)
Alabama Arizona
Alaska California
Arkansas Colorado
Connecticut Georgia
Florida Illinois
Hawaii Indiana
Idaho Iowa
Maine Kansas
Nebraska Kentucky
South Carolina Louisiana
Texas Maryland
Utah Massachusetts
Vermont Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Dakota
Tennessee
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Original post here


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Filibuster News | 15 comments
I have to play devil's advocate for a moment. (0.00 / 0)
Eliminating the filibuster altogether will only cement majority rule without any possibility of the minority being able to address it's grievances with the majority.

My point is that the Dems won't be in the majority that much longer, so how's that going to work out for Dems trying to stop or at least delay horrid legislation?

The simplest answer here would be to stick to the original rules on filibusters and physically make them filibuster. The only reason they don't have to do that now is a certain Harry Reid, who let the GOP totally off the hook when he wrote the current rule.

Personally, the only thing I want from Reid is his resignation from leadership. He's been nothing but a Benedict Arnold from the get-go and that's never going to change.

Remember when the Republicans abused the Independent Prosecutor's statute? Well, the Dem response was to eliminate it. That was a great move, wasn't it? Now that provision doesn't exist and with a largely corrupt DOJ, there's no one left to enforce the law against politicians, except a few black ones.

Let's just keep in mind who we're dealing with here. When they say "reform," we should be very careful about exactly what they mean.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


Democrats (0.00 / 0)
don't try to stop or delay horrid legislation.

[ Parent ]
my answer (4.00 / 4)
Yes, that is a disadvantage.  Historically, the left uses the filibuster to its advantage much less often than the right, but there will be times when a Republican majority is able to pass bad things on narrow majorities.

That said, at least the voters will know who to blame for it.  

On the whole, the advantages outweigh the risks.    


[ Parent ]
And another thing to consider: (0.00 / 0)
If Democrats change the rules first they can set them to their liking and put the Republicans in the position of having to try to change them later, rather than the other way around.

[ Parent ]
You still have the Senate (4.00 / 1)
So that's a block on absolute majority rule.  Not to mention committees, and the Presidential veto.  And our stupid SMD system.  

[ Parent ]
There are no original rules on filibusters (4.00 / 1)
And the solution isn't to force them to speak, it's to get rid of the two-track system refuse to move on to other business and bring the political process to a complete halt.  Within the context of the health care debate, that would have meant refusing to consider other business such as climate change, jobs, and financial regulation (but also war funding).

I'm all in favor of a stare-down that threatens to deny emergency funding to people hit by natural disaster or funding for body armor for troops.  I don't know if other people have the guts to let people be hurt in order to make a point.

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both


[ Parent ]
Keep 60/40 but change the burden (0.00 / 0)
Seems to me a very salable filibuster reform would be to keep the 60/40 ratio, but place the burden on the minority to sustain 40 votes for debate to continue. It wouldn't be seen as 'cheating' or altering the rights of a 40% minority, but would fundamentally change the way the minority could use the power. Set the rules something like this:

  1. When cloture ripens the following question shall be put before the Senate: "Shall the Senate continue debate on (the pending business)?" with a vote of 40% of the Senate required to continue debate. If debate is not continued, a vote shall be set no later than (choose specified time certain).

  2. If debate continues after the first cloture vote, motions for subsequent votes on that question, requiring 40 votes to sustain, shall be in order at any time and, if seconded, the vote shall immediately commence.

  3. If debate continues after the first cloture vote, debate shall not cease because of the absence of a quorum.

  4. If no Senator seeks recognition to speak; or if a Senator holding the floor ceases to either actively debate or yield the floor, debate shall be deemed closed on the pending business.

  5. The Senate may not adjourn without consent of a majority of the body.

In short, a 40% minority can still demand unlimited debate, but the burden of sustaining their demand falls on them. It would require them to actually maintain the floor and debate. It would also require them to produce 40 votes on demand to sustain debate.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans


[ Parent ]
And that's why you can't afford to lose elections (4.00 / 1)
Elections should have consequences. God knows I'd love it if in Britain we could stop the coalition doing anything by filibustering all their legislation, but all it really does is to enshrine dysfunction and inaction.

You defeat legislation by building coalitions against it to deny it the votes it needs. If that doesn't work, you win the next election and repeal it.

The filibuster is just a legacy of an age where coalition-building was not possible, because the South refused to negotiate on civil rights. Weakening it or disposing of it would be an important step in putting that age well behind America.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog


[ Parent ]
What about Delaware? (0.00 / 0)
I did not see Delaware listed as either having or not having a filibuster.

good eye (0.00 / 0)
From the original article:


Delaware:  Delaware's Senate is weird and secretive.  Their rules are evidently not posted online.  From perusing Delaware Liberal, it seems like DE Senate is majority rule, but absent some direct evidence I opted not to include it.

So the answer is that I don't know whether they do.  


[ Parent ]
If one wanted to pick a state (0.00 / 0)
And campaign for it to remove the possibility of filibuster in its state senate as a symbol of opposition to allowing filibusters in the US Senate, which would be the best target?

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

counter-intuitive idea: campaign to add it (0.00 / 0)
The same objective might be met, to show how ridiculous it is, by mounting (satirical) campaigns to have it added in states where it is not allowed.

They call me Clem, Clem Guttata. Come visit wild, wonderful West Virginia Blue

[ Parent ]
California (0.00 / 0)
Maybe it doesn't allow filibusters, but it does require supermajorities for tax increases.

Which has worked out really well for their fiscal management.


I really wrestled with that sort of thing (4.00 / 1)
In the original post, and compiled the following table to try and sort out that sort of thing:


Majority Rule Mixed Supermajority
Georgia Colorado Alabama
Illinois Delaware Alaska
Indiana Florida Arizona
Iowa Hawaii Arkansas
Kansas Kentucky California
Massachusetts Michigan Connecticut
Minnesota Mississippi Idaho
Montana Oregon Louisiana
New Hampshire Maine
New Jersey Maryland
New Mexico Missouri
New York Nebraska
North Carolina Nevada
North Dakota Oklahoma
Ohio Rhode Island
Pennsylvania South Carolina
Tennessee South Dakota
Virginia Texas
Washington Utah
West Virginia Vermont
Wisconsin
Wyoming

This was an effort to account for situations like Cali, where technically it's not a filibuster, but requiring 2/3 majorities on the most important bill the leg has to pass every year does reduce it to being a place where you need supermajority agreement to actually govern.


[ Parent ]
There's no "the minority", there are lots of minorities (4.00 / 5)
There's no "the majority" either. A majority is a 50% coalition (formed by logrolling, backscratching, and bribery) which can pass a bill. A minority is a smaller coalition formed the same way able to block a bill.There are as many majorities and minorities as there are coalitions, and plenty of people are left out of all coalitions.

I think that the founders were wrong one way or another (either in thinking that minority blocking protects "the minority", or in cynically jimmying the Constitution to protect slavery). Their anti-majoritarian system makes a little sense to the degree that you think that it's better to have less legislation rather than more (though I don't think that). But it doesn't protect "minorities" in general, but only members of the particular minority coalition blocking legislation.

From the beginning the most successful uses of minority blocking power have been in defense of slavery and segregation. One minority (white Southerners and their northern friends) blocked the majority at the cost of a second minority (black southerners).

The real outcome of our anti-majoritarian system, especially in the Senate, is to multiply the veto points, and the outcome of that is graft and pork barrel. The committee system also concentrates power in the hands of the top ten or so Senators in seniority. The minorities they serve are usually banks and insurance companies.



Filibuster News | 15 comments
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