End The Filibuster: According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word filibuster is defined as ‘the use of extreme dilatory tactics in an attempt to delay or prevent action especially in a legislative assembly’.
The term comes from a Dutch word meaning ‘pirate’. The website www.senate.gov lists several examples of how the filibuster has been used dating back to the beginning of our country. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson attempted to limit the power of the filibuster by adapting Rule 22 (known as ‘cloture’) that would require a two-thirds majority vote to overrule a filibuster attempt. Problem with this is that it’s nearly impossible to get two-thirds of the Senate to agree on anything, never mind something that will help pass legislation one party does not agree with.
Abuses of the Filibuster
There have been several ridiculous abuses of the filibuster in our history. The blocking of the Treaty of Versailles (passed eventually when cloture was used successfully) or attempts by Southern Senators attempting to block civil rights legislation using a 60 day filibuster. That’s SIXTY DAYS. As in, one after fifty nine and one less of sixty one. Eleven years after this horrific display of calculated pro-racist legislative power, the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths, a fitting fraction if you think about it.
And then, there are the heroics of Senators such as Huey P Long (D-Louisiana) and Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina). Long once spoke on the Senate floor for fifteen hours reciting Shakespeare and reading cooking recipes. Thurmond’s brave act was a twenty-four hour and eighteen minute rambling ‘speech’ as part of that sixty day block against the Civil Rights Act. Other very productive use of time of our Congress members have been reading the phone book and singing. My personal favorite was Rafael Edward ‘Ted’ Cruz’s reading of Dr. Seuss in a 21 hour standoff in 2013 in an attempt to voice his opinions on the Affordable Healthcare Act. I’m impressed Rafael is able to read!
Today, there is a standoff with Mitch McConnell and new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Essentially, Shumer wants to use his new power to end the filibuster (and in turn actually have the Senate debate and do the jobs they were sent to Washington to do) and McConnell wants to keep things the way they have in an attempt to cling to some sort of power in the Senate.
“The Senate exists to require deliberation and cooperation. James Madison said the Senate’s job was to provide a complicated check…against improper acts of legislation. We ensure that laws earn enough buy-in to receive the lasting consent of the governed. We stop bad ideas, improve good ideas and keep laws from swinging wildly with every election” McConnell said about the reasoning behind his argument for keeping the filibuster. He continues to say that there would be “immediate chaos, especially in this 50-50 Senate”.
End The Filibuster
I have an idea though. You could actually do your job and have actual debates with one another and find ways to resolve your differences by GASP finding COMPROMISES!
There is not a good reason to continue to have a filibuster. The filibuster has been used to attempt to block more good than stop bad. Reading phone books, singing and sharing your favorite recipes simply is not working for the American people. Senators were elected to work FOR the American people. Not self indulge themselves or act silly to keep special interest groups happy and in control of certain aspects of our capitalist culture.
It is time to stop living in the 1700’s, or the 1800’s or even the 1900’s. It’s time that our system of government evolve and start working together to get things done, for the American people. It is time to end the filibuster.
Written by: DJ Parker