Day by Day

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Why there cannot be an old fashioned filibuster

I'm sure you've heard it suggested that we should "force Democrats to read from the phone book". That isn't going to happen.

It is important to understand that the old-fashioned filibuster of the '50s and '60s went by the boards when the rule to invoke cloture – the process of ending debate – was changed in 1975, from requiring a vote of two-thirds of those present, to a vote of three-fifths of all senators.

In the old days, if the Senate was held in session around the clock, the party wishing to block a vote had to be present because 51 senators are necessary to constitute a quorum. However, now that three-fifths of all 100 senators (60) must give their approval to end debate, it is no longer necessary for those wishing to hold up a vote to even be present.

Nobody said that breaking this filibuster would be easy. The way Senate rules are written, it is next to impossible to break one without some backroom deals – and Democrat leaders are not willing to deal.
So when you see someone suggest that Republicans could force Democrats to do this, show them that they cannot. This has always been about Democrat Obstruction. Any debates that have transpired since they began their unprecedented use of the filibuster is soo much smoke and mirrors. The filibuster is THE obstructionist's tool and the Democrats have been employing it with impunity.

[UPDATE - Tim:] Speaking of 1975, here are two quotes from the Congressional Record:

"It seems to me that a not-so-subtle difference, a profound different [sic], between 66 2/3 percent and a simple majority could be the different between an active, responsible U.S. Senate and one which is dominated by a small minority."

"May a majority of the Members of the Senate of the 94th Congress change the rules of the Senate, uninhibited by the past rules of the Senate? I firmly believe that the majority has such a right — as the U.S. Constitution, the precedents of this body, the inherent nature of our constitutional system, and the rulings of two previous Vice Presidents make clear."
Who uttered those two nuggets?

Walter Mondale

And the funny thing is that where the filibuster is concerned, they were against it before they were for it.

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