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 Post subject: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:10 pm 
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My understanding:

Way back when, if your party had at least 40 (41?) votes, you could stage a filibuster, an elaborate and silly time-wasting spectacle where you ceremonially refused to yield the floor, and thus prevented a vote from taking place.

But—this is where I get all confused—did the rule actually change?

Is it now the case that you don't actually have to follow through and do your filibuster? All you need to do is say you would read from the phonebook for 36 hours straight, or whatever, but not actually do it?

I don't get it.

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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:19 pm 
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I'm no expert but I gather that the threat of a filibuster is about as good as the real thing nowadays, especially since politicians now are even less interested in getting things accomplished for their constituency than they were way back when.


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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:32 pm 
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But did a rule change that allows you to merely say the word filibuster and then everyone says, "Nothing we can do. He said filibuster. Our hands are tied" or did people's attitudes change?

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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:36 pm 
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I wikipedia'd that shiitake and it says that actually conducting the filibuster is not necessary unless the majority leader requires it. So if your party of choice says the word "filibuster", then shiitake grinds to a halt.


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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:39 pm 
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My understanding is that if someone is determined to filibuster, there's no point in making them go through with it, as it would be a tremendous waste of both many people's time, and the amount of resources that are used up when the House is in session. There's no reason to call the bluff, since there's no reason to bluff.

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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:42 pm 
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jordanpattern wrote:
My understanding is that if someone is determined to filibuster, there's no point in making them go through with it, as it would be a tremendous waste of both many people's time, and the amount of resources that are used up when the House is in session. There's no reason to call the bluff, since there's no reason to bluff.


So you mean the Dems could have been calling their bluff right and left? There is a reason to call their bluff: it's one thing to say you will prevent a vote, but to actually get up there in front of the world and be a public dick? That's different. The Dems are chickenshits. A waste of resources? All the GOP has been doing the last 2 years is refusing to get shiitake done.

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 Post subject: my understanding of this nonsense
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 3:40 pm 
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FootFace wrote:
But—this is where I get all confused—did the rule actually change?

Is it now the case that you don't actually have to follow through and do your filibuster? All you need to do is say you would read from the phonebook for 36 hours straight, or whatever, but not actually do it?

I don't get it.


In 1917, the Senate introduced Rule 22, which said that a 2/3 supermajority of the Senate (67 people) was required to invoke cloture. Talking all night is the traditional filibuster, cloture ends it.
In 1975, the Senate revised Rule 22, with the excuse that a 2/3 supermajority was too hard to secure, so now only 3/5 of the Senate (60 people) would be required to vote to invoke cloture and end the filibuster. There's where you get that magical "60" number that's been floating around -- theoretically, if all 57 Democrats plus the 2 Independents who've promised to caucus with them voted to invoke cloture, the Democrats still wouldn't have the supermajority required to shut down Republican filibusters. Someone from "the other side" has to vote with the other party.
HOWEVER, the 1975 rule change also specifies that if 41 Senators (coincidentally, the current number of Republicans in the Senate) say that they intend to filibuster, the issue being debated just gets set aside until cloture is invoked. If Dems don't get someone from the other side of the aisle to jump ship and cloture is never invoked because they don't have the 60 votes they need to do it, the Senate has to suspend all business until the person who introduced the motion/nominee is withdrawn! They don't even need to get out of their chairs. This is the procedural filibuster.

The procedural filibuster is what our Congress has devolved into using today, and I think that's where your confusion comes from. It became a hell of a lot more popular with the advent of the Li'l Bush administration, and it's just sort of stuck around because our national discourse has almost completely rotted away and most Senators are pathetic, spineless sacks of shiitake. There were 100+ votes to invoke cloture (which means there were 100+ procedural filibusters) in the first year of the current Congress. Just the threat of a filibuster is the same as an actual filibuster. A procedural filibuster is, for all intents and purposes, a traditional filibuster. You can't block either without a vote for cloture, and right now, we don't have enough votes to do that. So the Republicans are getting away with simply blocking everything at every turn, and the Democratic leadership is just shrugging and lying down in front of the bulldozer. It's forking gross.

These days, the people "filibustering" don't need to read the phone book or anything like that; they just need 41 Senators to say they would, theoretically, actually filibuster. To enact an actual, old-school, talk-all-night filibuster, the Senate Majority Leader would have to say, "Okay, Republicans, start yapping!" Yes, Harry Reid could actually do this. He has chosen not to, because he is, I don't know, a coward who only cares about being re-elected? A damn fool? Someone who doesn't care about the will of the people? All of the above? We don't have the votes to invoke cloture, but he could at least pretend to care and ask for even one traditional filibuster on something.

Inherent differences between both parties' version of a filibuster:
Republican majority, Bill Frist at the helm -- We're going to eliminate the filibuster altogether ("nuclear option") if Democrats filibuster George W. Bush's loathsome judicial nominees, but we won't if you promise not to filibuster. PROMISE! PROMISE!!!!!!
Democratic majority, "led" by Harry Reid: Sorry, sorry! You don't need to talk, we'll just give you everything you want!

It's complicated and stupid and it fills me with blinding rage. I hope that all makes sense!

Great article on this, much better than my blathering: http://www.thenation.com/article/case-busting-filibuster

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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 4:04 pm 
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FootFace wrote:
jordanpattern wrote:
My understanding is that if someone is determined to filibuster, there's no point in making them go through with it, as it would be a tremendous waste of both many people's time, and the amount of resources that are used up when the House is in session. There's no reason to call the bluff, since there's no reason to bluff.


So you mean the Dems could have been calling their bluff right and left? There is a reason to call their bluff: it's one thing to say you will prevent a vote, but to actually get up there in front of the world and be a public dick? That's different. The Dems are chickenshits. A waste of resources? All the GOP has been doing the last 2 years is refusing to get shiitake done.


Well, I think the act of declaring that you're going to filibuster is as big an act of public dickery as actually doing it. Sure, it takes some degree of stamina and whatever to read the entirety of Moby Dick to congress or whatever, but not exactly a feat. Plus, most people who filibuster have the full support of their parties, so even if one party/one party's supporters think the filibusterer is a dick, the filibusterer's own party/party supporters think he's a hero, so it probably evens out.

And yeah, the wasted resources thing is small compared to the resources wasted by the republicans in the past two years, but, well, I doubt that matters to the republicans. I'm all for going through with it, though. Filibusters are total dickbag political moves, but they're funny to watch. Isn't that what politics is all about?

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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 5:25 pm 
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If Harry Reid made the Republicans actually filibuster everything they said they would filibuster (or even one thing) even less would get done.
We could in fact still be watching Republicans take turns reading from the Bible to prevent a vote on healthcare reform. That means no new budget, no raising the debt ceiling, no extension of unemployment benefits. The end result could be a government shutdown.
Meanwhile, the Republican base would think they were heroes.


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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 5:44 pm 
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See, I think Reid should've made the Senate Republicans filibuster something totally trivial, WAY before we got to health care reform or any of that fun stuff, just to prove to the public that the only reason they're doing this is in the name of unfiltered obstructionism, rather than in some sad stab toward the kind of genuine idealism that made Strom Thurmond filibuster the Civil Rights Act for over 24 hours.

Not that the public even cares anymore, at all, about anything, ever.

I hate everything.

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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 5:46 pm 
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Here is my valuable contribution to this thread: the filibuster is dumb.

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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 5:59 pm 
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just mumbles wrote:
Here is my valuable contribution to this thread: the filibuster is dumb.


Agreed! Ezra Klein has written a lot about what's wrong with the filibuster (and other Senate rules), and some possibilities for fixing it. For example: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/04/mending_the_filibuster_without.html


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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 8:11 pm 
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Reading Moby Dick to filibuster/obstruct might not be a feat, but it's a he'll of a lot more visible then just sitting there saying, "Filibuster." ("Obstructing? Me? I'm at work every day, doing my job, voting as I see fit.)

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I might actually think most Repugnicans can, occasionally, be shamed into doing the right thing/not doing the wrong thing.

It makes no sense to me that you now, effectively, need 60/100 to pass anything.

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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 8:15 pm 
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nothingtosay wrote:
If Harry Reid made the Republicans actually filibuster everything they said they would filibuster (or even one thing) even less would get done.
We could in fact still be watching Republicans take turns reading from the Bible to prevent a vote on healthcare reform. That means no new budget, no raising the debt ceiling, no extension of unemployment benefits. The end result could be a government shutdown.
Meanwhile, the Republican base would think they were heroes.


But if he made them filibuster everything they said they would filibuster, they'd stop threatening to filibuster everything. I just don't believe they would actually follow through and filibuster virtually every piece of legislation the Dems introduced.

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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2010 8:29 pm 
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nothingtosay wrote:
Agreed! Ezra Klein has written a lot about what's wrong with the filibuster (and other Senate rules), and some possibilities for fixing it. For example: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/04/mending_the_filibuster_without.html

He raises a lot of good points, but I don't see this happening for the same reason that I don't think the filibuster will get dropped. It's in the interest of both parties to maintain the status quo.

The filibuster is dumb, and the American political system is dysfunctional.

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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 2:54 pm 
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FootFace wrote:
nothingtosay wrote:
If Harry Reid made the Republicans actually filibuster everything they said they would filibuster (or even one thing) even less would get done.
We could in fact still be watching Republicans take turns reading from the Bible to prevent a vote on healthcare reform. That means no new budget, no raising the debt ceiling, no extension of unemployment benefits. The end result could be a government shutdown.
Meanwhile, the Republican base would think they were heroes.


But if he made them filibuster everything they said they would filibuster, they'd stop threatening to filibuster everything. I just don't believe they would actually follow through and filibuster virtually every piece of legislation the Dems introduced.



Ah, maybe you're right .. I just looked to see if this had ever happened. On the financial regulation bill the Dems actually threatened to make the Republicans stay there all night if they were serious about filibustering. The Republicans folded .. no filibuster.


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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 2:59 pm 
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FootFace wrote:
So you mean the Dems could have been calling their bluff right and left? There is a reason to call their bluff: it's one thing to say you will prevent a vote, but to actually get up there in front of the world and be a public dick? That's different. The Dems are chickenshits. A waste of resources? All the GOP has been doing the last 2 years is refusing to get shiitake done.


YES. They COULD have. They could have said, "Oh yeah? Filibuster away, then," and let the Republicans stand up in front of Congress yammering on like idiots for days and days. At that point it would become pretty clear who was doing what.

Instead, the wussbags caved and caved and caved. It's dumb.

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 Post subject: Re: Explain the filibuster rule, please
PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:10 pm 
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Hope?

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