Make them filibuster.

Here’s a radical idea. Democrats could use their still thumpingly big majority to try to pass some legislation, and not back down until Republicans ACTUALLY successfully filibuster. The only reason this MA election matters so much is that whenever we’re short of 60 votes we give up. But an actual filibuster would require Republicans to talk non-stop, keeping debate open and thereby preventing a bill from passing. This never actually happens these days, because for some reason everyone’s decided to accept that saying “we will filibuster” is enough. But think about it: Republicans reading the phone book into the congressional record to make sure health care doesn’t pass is ready-made for TV. I say we should be calling their bluff. If it’s a bluff (which I think it must be), then we win. But even if it isn’t, the longest filibuster in Senate history was Strom Thurmond’s 24 hour attempt to block civil rights. And guess what? They forced it to a vote and Strom lost. Wikipedia writes, “A filibuster can be defeated by the governing party if they leave the debated issue on the agenda indefinitely, without adding anything else.” So why don’t we bloody well do that??

7 thoughts on “Make them filibuster.

  1. It’s my understanding that a rule change in the 70s made it so that the filibuster-ers don’t have to talk unless there’s a quorum, and there’s only a quorum if almost all the anti-filibuster people are actually there, since the pro- people will deliberately leave to make it easier for their friend who is doing the talking. So, it’s actually a huge pain for the anti- people and really easy for the pro- people.

    That said, if the House just voted on the bill the Senate already passed, this could all be over tomorrow, since they wouldn’t need to go back to the Senate at that point.

  2. Interesting, Carl. But given that the longest-ever filibuster was 24 hours, it doesn’t seem like that huge a pain. And it’s certainly one they should be willing to bear.

  3. Like you, I always find it very puzzling that filibusters are considered so extraordinarily unendurable; by their very nature, they can’t prevent voting, only delay it, and they can only delay it indefinitely by bringing all Senate business to a nearly complete standstill, which no one on either side really wants to do for long. The only danger they pose is the possibility that the delay may lead some Senators to reconsider their support; if the support is solid to begin with, it’s hard to see why the delay should be a problem at all.

  4. If it was the case that when the person doing the talking had to concede the floor to a vote when exhausted, this strategy would work. You could just wait out the one speaker and then get your vote.

    However, the person who has the floor can yield the floor to another member of their party, who then continues the filibuster.

    So, while you would only need 2 Republicans in the chamber (one to filibuster, another that would start when the first yielded the floor), you would need a quorum of Democrats.

  5. It won’t exhaust them, but it does bring business to a halt. After a while, the fact that nothing is happening at all while a minority throws a fit is something that could generate serious opposition if the Dem’s had the guts for a fight. (Which of course they have demonstrated over the last 20 years they don’t.)

Comments are closed.