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Thread: End the filibuster?

  1. Top | #71
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    Chairman Schumer, Ranking Member Bennett, and members of the Committee. My name is Sarah Binder. I am a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor of political science at George Washington University. I appreciate the opportunity to testify today about the history of the filibuster.

    I want to offer three arguments today about that history.

    First, historical lore says that the filibuster was part of the original design of the Senate. Not true. When we scour early Senate history, we discover that the filibuster was created by mistake.

    Second, we often say that the 19th century Senate was a golden age of deliberation. But the golden age was not so golden: Senate leaders by the 1840s were already trying to adopt a cloture rule. But most such efforts to bar the filibuster were filibustered.

    Third, creation of the cloture rule in 1917 was not a statement of the Senate’s love for supermajority rules. Instead, it was the product of hard-nose bargaining with an obstructive minority. Short-term, pragmatic politics shape contests to change Senate rules.
    The House and Senate rulebooks in 1789 were nearly identical. Both rulebooks included what is known as the “previous question” motion. The House kept their motion, and today it empowers a simple majority to cut off debate. The Senate no longer has that rule on its books.

    What happened to the Senate’s rule? In 1805, Vice President Aaron Burr was presiding over the Senate (freshly indicted for the murder of Alexander Hamilton), and he offered this advice. He said something like this. You are a great deliberative body. But a truly great Senate would have a cleaner rule book. Yours is a mess. You have lots of rules that do the same thing. And he singles out the previous question motion. Now, today, we know that a simple majority in the House can use the rule to cut off debate. But in 1805, neither chamber used the rule that way. Majorities were still experimenting with it. And so when Aaron Burr said, get rid of the previous question motion, the Senate didn’t think twice. When they met in 1806, they dropped the motion from the Senate rule book.

    Why? Not because senators in 1806 sought to protect minority rights and extended debate. They got rid of the rule by mistake: Because Aaron Burr told them to.

    Once the rule was gone, senators still did not filibuster. Deletion of the rule made possible the filibuster because the Senate no longer had a rule that could have empowered a simple majority to cut off debate. It took several decades until the minority exploited the lax limits on debate, leading to the first real-live filibuster in 1837.
    Conventional treatments of the Senate glorify the 19th century as the “golden age” of the Senate: We say that filibusters were reserved for the great issues of the day and that all senators cherished extended debate. That view misreads history in two ways.

    First, there were very few filibusters before the Civil War. Why so few filibusters? First, the Senate operated by majority rule; senators expected matters would be brought to a vote. Second, the Senate did not have a lot of work to do in those years, so there was plenty of time to wait out the opposition. Third, voting coalitions in the early Senate were not nearly as polarized as they would later become.

    All that changed by mid-century. The Senate grew larger and more polarized along party lines, it had more work to do, and people started paying attention to it. By the 1880s, almost every Congress began to experience at least one bout of obstructionism: for instance, over civil rights, election law, nominations, even appointment of Senate officers—only some of these “the great issues of the day.”

    There is a second reason that this was not a golden age: When filibusters did occur, leaders tried to ban them. Senate leaders tried and failed repeatedly over the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries to reinstate the previous question motion. More often than not, senators gave up their quest for reform when they saw that opponents would kill it by filibuster—putting the majority’s other priorities at risk. Unable to reform Senate rules, leaders developed other innovations such as unanimous consent agreements. These seem to have been a fallback option for managing a chamber prone to filibusters.
    We can draw at least three lessons from this history:

    First, the history of extended debate in the Senate belies the received wisdom that the filibuster was an original, constitutional feature of the Senate. The filibuster is more accurately viewed as the unanticipated consequence of an early change to Senate rules.

    Second, reform of Senate rules is possible. There are conditions that can lead a bipartisan supermajority to agree to change Senate rules. The minority has often held the upper hand in these contests, however, given the high barrier to reform imposed by inherited Senate rules.

    Third, and finally, the Senate adopted a supermajority rule not because senators were uniformly committed to the filibuster. Senators chose a two-thirds rule because a minority blocked more radical reform. Short-term, pragmatic considerations almost always shape contests over reform of Senate rules.
    The filibuster arose from a mistake. I say correct that mistake and make the senate a small d democratic body again.

    https://www.brookings.edu/testimonie...he-filibuster/
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  2. Top | #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patooka View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Harvestdancer View Post
    And when the Senate changes hands, and the filibuster that currently impedes the Democrats is no longer available to help the Democrats?
    By then, all state and federal districts will be so fucking gerrymandered, and voter disenfranchisement will be so commonplace, the presence or absence of a filibuster will means precisely jack shit. Republicans aren't even worried about saying the quiet part out loud anymore.
    Not an answer.

    Quote Originally Posted by laughing dog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Harvestdancer View Post
    And when the Senate changes hands, and the filibuster that currently impedes the Democrats is no longer available to help the Democrats?
    Do you have an actual point?
    Yes,[removed insult]
    Last edited by Rhea; 06-07-2021 at 04:10 AM. Reason: Removed violation of TOU
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  3. Top | #73
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    Many states are passing laws and encouraging illegal practices to make it harder for blacks to vote. Gerrymandering means the Rs control some states where the Ds have a majority of voters. We need tough new federal laws to help combat such cheating.

    If bills like HR.1 are not enacted, American democracy is dead. There aren't 60 Senators who will vote for such laws. Ending the Senate filibuster, or allowing a simple majority to pass a cloture motion, is the only way to save American democracy.

    It is a distraction to distinguish between an actual and "virtual" filibuster. The latter evolved as a time-saving measure. Instead of Ted Cruz standing up for an hour and reading from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and then saying "I've got to telephone Tricia's Teenage Trix to confirm my date, so I'll ask Josh Hawley to continue the reading of Atlas Shrugged," Cruz could just say "Do you really want to listen to Ayn Rand for an hour?" Do you really think Cruz will drop his opposition to HR.1 if it means he's forced to stand up for a few hours and bring the Senate to a standstill?

    It is shameful if there are not 50 Senators who support reforms like HR.1. And it is incredible that Senators who want to protect American democracy will not change the filibuster rules to do so.

    If Manchin and Whats-hername are going to let us down, what about Murkowski or Romney? One gets the impression that Lisa and Mitt believe in America and democracy, that they know the difference between good and evil. But if they don't join in saving democracy I will detest them more than I detest subhumans like Cruz or Hawley. At least Cruz and Hawley openly brag about being hate-filled contemptible swine.

  4. Top | #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swammerdami View Post
    Many states are passing laws and encouraging illegal practices to make it harder for blacks to vote. Gerrymandering means the Rs control some states where the Ds have a majority of voters. We need tough new federal laws to help combat such cheating.
    Gerrymandering is irrelevant to the US Senate, because each state gets 2 Senators regardless of its population or its distribution.

    Quote Originally Posted by Swammerdami
    It is a distraction to distinguish between an actual and "virtual" filibuster. The latter evolved as a time-saving measure. Instead of Ted Cruz standing up for an hour and reading from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and then saying "I've got to telephone Tricia's Teenage Trix to confirm my date, so I'll ask Josh Hawley to continue the reading of Atlas Shrugged," Cruz could just say "Do you really want to listen to Ayn Rand for an hour?" Do you really think Cruz will drop his opposition to HR.1 if it means he's forced to stand up for a few hours and bring the Senate to a standstill?
    You miss an essential point. Eliminating the filibuster (actual or virtual) is not about getting support for legislation- it is about reducing obstruction. The virtual filibuster requires no effort which is why its use has mushroomed.

    Keeping the actual filibuster while eliminating the virtual one allows those who promised to keep the filibuster to agree to a compromise.

  5. Top | #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Harvestdancer View Post

    Not an answer.
    It is. Just one you are not willing to accept. But that's okay.

    Quote Originally Posted by laughing dog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Swammerdami View Post
    Many states are passing laws and encouraging illegal practices to make it harder for blacks to vote. Gerrymandering means the Rs control some states where the Ds have a majority of voters. We need tough new federal laws to help combat such cheating.
    Gerrymandering is irrelevant to the US Senate, because each state gets 2 Senators regardless of its population or its distribution.
    Not necessarily. If you gain control of the state through gerrymandering, and then pass laws that disenfranchise voters from a particular party, your party gets to pick senators with a huge thumb on the scales. Gerrymandering directly leads to 7 hour long voting lines and rat fuckery like unequal distribution of polling booths or the banning of giving people water.

  6. Top | #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by laughing dog View Post
    Gerrymandering is irrelevant to the US Senate, because each state gets 2 Senators regardless of its population or its distribution.
    .
    Which is itself a form of gerrymandering given the wide range of state populations.

  7. Top | #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by laughing dog View Post
    Gerrymandering is irrelevant to the US Senate, because each state gets 2 Senators regardless of its population or its distribution.
    The "For the People Act", which is the bill whose passage I was calling for and which may be defeated by filibuster, will help prevent cheating in ALL elections, including elections for the House of Reps and for state legislatures. Were you under the impression that the Senate is or should be only concerned with elections to the Senate?

    Quote Originally Posted by laughing dog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Swammerdami
    It is a distraction to distinguish between an actual and "virtual" filibuster. The latter evolved as a time-saving measure. Instead of Ted Cruz standing up for an hour and reading from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and then saying "I've got to telephone Tricia's Teenage Trix to confirm my date, so I'll ask Josh Hawley to continue the reading of Atlas Shrugged," Cruz could just say "Do you really want to listen to Ayn Rand for an hour?" Do you really think Cruz will drop his opposition to HR.1 if [preventing its passage] means he's forced to stand up for a few hours and bring the Senate to a standstill?
    You miss an essential point. Eliminating the filibuster (actual or virtual) is not about getting support for legislation- it is about reducing obstruction. The virtual filibuster requires no effort which is why its use has mushroomed.

    Keeping the actual filibuster while eliminating the virtual one allows those who promised to keep the filibuster to agree to a compromise.
    YOU miss MY point. I've enlarged it and colored it red for you.

  8. Top | #78
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    When the Fox News anchor calls out a Democratic Senator for not supporting the Democratic Party, maybe it's time for said moron to listen:
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Wallace, addressing Sen. Joe Manchin in an interview
    If you were to keep the idea that maybe you would vote to kill the filibuster, wouldn't that give Republicans an incentive to actually negotiate? By taking it off the table, haven't you empowered Republicans to be obstructionists?

  9. Top | #79
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patooka View Post
    It is. Just one you are not willing to accept. But that's okay.
    The reason it is not an answer is because it doesn't address the question. Telling me "because birds have feathers" doesn't answer when I say "when the Senate changes hands, and the filibuster that currently impedes the Democrats is no longer available to help the Democrats".
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  10. Top | #80
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Harvestdancer View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Patooka View Post
    It is. Just one you are not willing to accept. But that's okay.
    The reason it is not an answer is because it doesn't address the question. Telling me "because birds have feathers" doesn't answer when I say "when the Senate changes hands, and the filibuster that currently impedes the Democrats is no longer available to help the Democrats".
    Why do you think the Republicans, who, as outlined above, rammed through a Justice after just saying Justies shouldn’t be rammed through, would allow the Democrats to benefit from the filibuter?

    Why do you think they’d respect it? Do they seem honorable to you?

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