Americans have heard much about the filibuster. I expect they will be hearing a lot more now that a Supreme Court seat is in the mix. What are these weird parliamentary rules causing the nation to be broken? Many Americans think it is a relic of a forgotten halcyon time in America where sixty votes was easy to achieve. Over coming weeks and months, all Americans will hear are 60 votes are necessary for cloture. That is the parliamentary move to end debate and call a vote.
This must be a relic of Jim Crow, this filibuster stuff, is what many Americans are thinking. However, this is simply not true. This current incarnation of the filibuster is from the “progressive” seventies, yes the 1970s, not the regressive nineteenth century. These current rules are meant to cloud the issues around the filibuster…IMO
The stakes are very high now. I expect both sides will heat up their rhetoric. A lot of legislation is stalled never to see the light of day due to filibustering. Many Americans must wonder how anything got done in America. If everything required sixty votes, Americans must have all agreed in the past. What happened to the simple majority rule Americans were taught in school?
As an American who affiliates with neither party, I feel an obligation to put these Fillibuster Facts out into the zeitgeist. This essay takes a position on the filibuster itself rather than on any particular piece of legislation. It is in the hope Americans will put ALL ONE HUNDRED Senators feet to the fire so Americans at least hear some debate. Americans might learn what these privileged politicians believe. What are they willing to STAND for?
United States senators do not actually have to filibuster. For some reason, the Senate has been allowed to call something a filibuster which is not a filibuster. It may have something to do with the average age of the Senate. There are some very old people in the Senate. Adult diapers are likely part of the attire for some Standing for over a long period of time could be a bit of a strain on them…not judging…just sayin’.
In any case, they all agreed to do away with the REAL filibuster about fifty years ago. How can a filibuster not be a filibuster? That is because a “filibuster” is supposed to mean the senator must talk for hours on end. At least that was how it was until 1970. Before that, senators had to actually speak to hold the floor and prevent a vote. Filibusters were pretty rare events when those were the rules.
Presently, all the U.S. Senator has to do to start and maintain a filibuster is draft a one-sentence letter informing leadership of their intent to “filibuster”. That is it. That makes no sense except it does give ONE person quite a bit of extra-constitutional power. A filibuster should be a principled stand against the majority. If a person wants to stand in the face of a whole nation’s legislative process, there needs to be some work put in, not a hand scribbled note. The filibuster has to be something real!
This talk of eliminating the filibuster is just foolishness. No REAL filibustering has been attempted. No REAL filibuster means Americans do not hear politicians tell them what they believe. Without it, the Senate has been broken for over fifty years. Not monitoring the Senate and their antics has had consequences for Americans.
A REAL filibuster has utility for the average citizen. Holding the floor is not easy. A person must summon serious effort and will to do so. The filibuster becomes the heart of American democracy when it is a physical, emotional, and psychological battle to even attempt one. Politicians are forced to actually put in the “work” average citizens are familiar with every day.
The filibuster has been broken for a long time. Neither party is telling the truth about it. For many years, a Senator has merely needed to write ‘filibuster’ on a card, then pass it to the parliamentarian and NO DEBATE happened.
One person can simply say they are “going to filibuster” and that is it, end of story. Since when does one senator have the power to block all forward progress with a word?
This is a “made-up” power senators have given themselves.
Senators do not wish to give up this power, because it is enormous. The political parties support it because it gives them power when they hold a slim majority. Corruption supports it because buying ONE Senator is a lot cheaper than having to buy fifty-one senators! It does not really serve Americans to not “test” a politician’s beliefs on matters of great importance.
There was never any intent from any of the Founding Fathers for the filibuster to be a slip of paper delivered without effort. The filibuster was meant to give a senator a chance to hold the floor to block legislation they passionately opposed. A senator was forced to prove what they believed by holding the floor…physically and audibly speaking about why they opposed the proposed legislation. This is how the messy process of making law is supposed to work. Others are swayed by the passion of another’s beliefs because those beliefs are real…or others are not swayed, but the effort is required, win or lose.
A filibuster is not a “chit”, a filibuster is a CHAT! Senators hold the floor to tell us what they believe and why they are blocking legislation.
“Please return to REAL filibusters” should be the note every American passes to their Senators.
The current “cheater filibuster” does not do much for WE the PEOPLE.
Eliminating it completely is very bad for the nation as a whole. No, the filibuster has a place. It is for Americans to hear what a senator believes and see the passion for it. This is what a REAL filibuster looks like
Above is James Stewart as a filibustering Senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It is an old movie. You will have to suffer the black and white film. Nonetheless, it does a reasonable job of showing what a cesspool DC can be and what an honest person might try to do if they were there. The whole thing is so messy, but it is the PROCESS we are supposed to be going through in America. https://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/3771/mr-smith-goes-to-washington/
Also published here.