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Subject: The Filibuster rss

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Kelsey Rinella
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I was terrified and angered when the Republicans considered eliminating the filibuster when they had a Senate majority. I was surprised to realize that I no longer feel this way--the last few years have left such a bad taste in my mouth that Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is no longer my primary association with it. I'm sure there's a degree of partisan bias in my perception of the issue because I expect that, if the Democrats have a Senate majority and still choose not to eliminate the filibuster but the Republicans later do so, I'll be very angry about that. How do others feel about it? Elaborate in a comment if warranted.

Poll: Filibuster Support
Do you support the filibuster in the U.S. Senate?
Do you support existing filibuster rules in the U.S. Senate?
Yes
Mostly
I'm ambivalent
Largely not
No
      57 answers
Poll created by rinelk
 
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Mac Mcleod
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I'm for the filibuster but I think they need to actually filibuster. No stipulated filibusters.
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Marc P
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The filibuster is silly. There needs to be a different way of accomplishing the same thing that is more reflective of the power relationship between the two parties. For example, say the minority party presents a stance of unified (say, 85%+) indignant opposition, but it is not enough to overcome an inevitable result. Then, instead of the ridiculous spectacle of the filibuster (which can actually enhance the standing of the minority party), there would be an established procedure by which the minority could spend influence to block a vote, and this action would cost them something subsequently (like votes, etc).
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Joe Lott
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It is a rule that I could do without. I really feel that it should be dumped. Watch though, if some one in the senate did ever get traction on a possible 'remove filibuster' rule set, it would be filibustered!
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Chad Ellis
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The filibuster is just a special case of a more general issue -- that in the Senate in particular (but also in the House) the minority can block action through a number of procedural means. Whether this is a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion and on how that ability is used.

I have a strong bias towards letting the executive branch nominate who it wishes, with the Senate holding hearings and giving an up-or-down vote. I don't like it when either party blocks nominees, and I'd like to see that reduced, whether by changing the Senate rules or simply through tradition.

On other areas I have mixed reactions. I think it's good in principle that the minority can block things but I think it should be used sparingly. That no longer seems to be the case.
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Mac Mcleod
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Chad_Ellis wrote:
The filibuster is just a special case of a more general issue -- that in the Senate in particular (but also in the House) the minority can block action through a number of procedural means. Whether this is a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion and on how that ability is used.

I have a strong bias towards letting the executive branch nominate who it wishes, with the Senate holding hearings and giving an up-or-down vote. I don't like it when either party blocks nominees, and I'd like to see that reduced, whether by changing the Senate rules or simply through tradition.

On other areas I have mixed reactions. I think it's good in principle that the minority can block things but I think it should be used sparingly. That no longer seems to be the case.


Now that is something I could get behind.

A filibuster but senators had a limit on the number of filibusters they could make. Like 1 per year. They would have to decide, "is this one worth it".

Of course there has to be some protection against the same issue being brought up again.
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Kelsey Rinella
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slowcorner wrote:
The filibuster is silly. There needs to be a different way of accomplishing the same thing that is more reflective of the power relationship between the two parties. For example, say the minority party presents a stance of unified (say, 85%+) indignant opposition, but it is not enough to overcome an inevitable result. Then, instead of the ridiculous spectacle of the filibuster (which can actually enhance the standing of the minority party), there would be an established procedure by which the minority could spend influence to block a vote, and this action would cost them something subsequently (like votes, etc).


Okay, this sounded like a terrible, terrible idea at first. Upon reflection, I really like the idea of allowing Senators a limited number of votes per session, but allowing them to allocate those votes as they like. If a minority feels very strongly about some issue, they can have outsized influence on it by giving up some of their power on other issues.

On further reflection, I suspect this would lead to all sorts of silly gamesmanship and manipulation which would not benefit the political process. It's delightful in theory, though (and don't let the opportunity for absurd results suggest that it's necessarily worse than our current system).
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I think the filibuster should be limited to how long a senator can actually speak without stopping -- that is how it used to be. Is it still like that?
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Kelsey Rinella
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SpaceGhost wrote:
I think the filibuster should be limited to how long a senator can actually speak without stopping -- that is how it used to be. Is it still like that?


IIRC, the trouble is that anyone the speaker trusts can relieve the speaker at any time. So long as the whole party (or even a substantial portion of it) wants to keep trading off, it can go on forever. Realizing this, they decided to skip the rigamarole and just admit that either party has the power to kill a bill if they can muster enough people on their side to block a vote to stop people from talking. That requires a supermajority, which is where the limit comes from.
 
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rinelk wrote:
SpaceGhost wrote:
I think the filibuster should be limited to how long a senator can actually speak without stopping -- that is how it used to be. Is it still like that?


IIRC, the trouble is that anyone the speaker trusts can relieve the speaker at any time. So long as the whole party (or even a substantial portion of it) wants to keep trading off, it can go on forever. Realizing this, they decided to skip the rigamarole and just admit that either party has the power to kill a bill if they can muster enough people on their side to block a vote to stop people from talking. That requires a supermajority, which is where the limit comes from.


Well, I would say that a senator can only speak once per bill then. In any event, if they are going to do it, I think they should be required to stand up there and speak.
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David desJardins
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SpaceGhost wrote:
I think the filibuster should be limited to how long a senator can actually speak without stopping -- that is how it used to be. Is it still like that?


It's not been anything like that for decades. The rules were changed long ago so that effectively anyone who says they might want to speak has the same rights as someone actually speaking.
 
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DaviddesJ wrote:
SpaceGhost wrote:
I think the filibuster should be limited to how long a senator can actually speak without stopping -- that is how it used to be. Is it still like that?


It's not been anything like that for decades. The rules were changed long ago so that effectively anyone who says they might want to speak has the same rights as someone actually speaking.


It should be changed back -- actually having to stand there and speak in a continuous fashion virtually guarantees that the process is finite.
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David desJardins
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SpaceGhost wrote:
It should be changed back -- actually having to stand there and speak in a continuous fashion virtually guarantees that the process is finite.


I don't see how it's finite. I think you could easily find 24 Republican Senators who would each be willing to speak for an hour every day for two years if it would keep taxes low for rich people.
 
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DaviddesJ wrote:
SpaceGhost wrote:
It should be changed back -- actually having to stand there and speak in a continuous fashion virtually guarantees that the process is finite.


I don't see how it's finite. I think you could easily find 24 Republican Senators who would each be willing to speak for an hour every day for two years if it would keep taxes low for rich people.


Yea, but how would that play on TV?

It would have a cost to the party different than simply quickly stipulating the bill was filibustered and setting it aside.
 
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DaviddesJ wrote:
SpaceGhost wrote:
It should be changed back -- actually having to stand there and speak in a continuous fashion virtually guarantees that the process is finite.


I don't see how it's finite. I think you could easily find 24 Republican Senators who would each be willing to speak for an hour every day for two years if it would keep taxes low for rich people.


You missed my caveat above, where a senator was limited to speaking once per bill and in a continuous fashion. Continuous for each speaker -- not for the set of speakers.
 
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maxo-texas wrote:
Quote:
I don't see how it's finite. I think you could easily find 24 Republican Senators who would each be willing to speak for an hour every day for two years if it would keep taxes low for rich people.


Yea, but how would that play on TV?


It would play great. You could find 24 Republican Senators whose constituents would love it. Their popularity would soar.
 
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SpaceGhost wrote:
You missed my caveat above, where a senator was limited to speaking once per bill and in a continuous fashion. Continuous for each speaker -- not for the set of speakers.


Well, then what's the point? Under current rules you already have 30 hours of debate even after a successful cloture vote. That's plenty of time for everyone to have their say. The purpose of the present system is to obstruct action. If you want to do away with obstruction, then just do away with obstruction.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
SpaceGhost wrote:
You missed my caveat above, where a senator was limited to speaking once per bill and in a continuous fashion. Continuous for each speaker -- not for the set of speakers.


Well, then what's the point? Under current rules you already have 30 hours of debate even after a successful cloture vote. That's plenty of time for everyone to have their say. The purpose of the present system is to obstruct action. If you want to do away with obstruction, then just do away with obstruction.


I think the prolonged speaking would be necessary to preserve the leverage of the minority party. If we got rid of obstruction completely, then what is the point of the minority party. But, if we had 40 senators saying they would take up two or three weeks of Senate business, then it comes down to how important everyone thinks a specific bill is. Is it worth it to sit around waiting for the spectacle to end to hold the vote or is it more advantageous to table the bill and get onto other business?

Mainly, though, I think that people should have to act out what has become such a ridiculous process that is effectively limiting the usefulness of government.
 
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SpaceGhost wrote:
If we got rid of obstruction completely, then what is the point of the minority party.


The point is that they get to be a majority whenever they persuade enough members of the majority party (or independents) to vote with them. It doesn't take very many.
 
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Tying a procedural matter to the physical stamina of someone in the government seems to most ludicrous option out of all of them.

If you think such delaying tactics are reasonable, then formalise them. Otherwise, get rid of them.
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DCAnderson wrote:
Here's a question: does anyone think that any Congressman in the past decade or so has had their opinion swayed even one iota by another Congressman's speech?


This happened recently:

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/after-fiery-sp...

I'm OK with there being some ways to delay or force some additional debate on a bill. It can be a good thing to get some public discussion going on an issue that seems to be speeding through congress.

I don't think a filibuster should be allowed to permanently kill a bill that has majority support.
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DCAnderson wrote:
I could be wrong, but if I'm right, doesn't that mean that the only reason for sessions of Congress to happen at all, is so that the minority party can waste everyone's time with a filibuster?


No, even if you had no debate there are still lots of other things that happen during a session of Congress. There might be many different final bills that could command majority support. How do you determine what actually gets passed? It's a bargaining exercise.
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Kelsey Rinella
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chaendlmaier wrote:
Wow, I thought when a vote was filibustered it actually meant some guys talked end on end to delay it. The fact that's only used as a formal technique is lame. I'd be pissed if my parliament allowed something like that.


Slightly more than half of us usually are, too.
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