Filibuster February 1, 2010

Now that Democrats have lost their filibuster-proof supermajority, some are clamoring to eliminate the filibuster.  That refers to the traditional Senate principle allowing unlimited debate apart from a vote of cloture.  That means that any Senator can keep talking on an issue, preventing it from coming up for a vote, unless 60 Senators vote  to end debate.  In practice, this means that bills need 60 votes just to get to the floor for action.  Here is a non-partisan defense of the system:  Ruth Marcus – Why the filibuster is frustrating but necessary –

But, as I understand it (somebody correct me if I’m wrong), today’s Senate rules do not require anyone to do the work of actually filibustering–that is, continually speaking on the Senate floor in marathon session without eating, going to the bathroom, or falling asleep, as in Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  That was the old school Senate.  Today, a member simply has to invoke the filibuster and the cloture rule goes into effect.  It is no longer necessary to, you know, filibuster.  No wonder the number of cloture votes has sky-rocketed and the Senate can hardly get anything done!

I propose keeping the filibuster for the reasons Ruth Marcus mentions.  But changing the rule back to the true tradition of the Senate so as to require actual continuous debate.  That would prevent the filibuster threat from being used all the time, while saving it for the big issues.

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