The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Great Debates

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 01-21-2010, 11:33 AM
Strassia Strassia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
What will it take for Senate Dems to be willing to break a filibuster?

Even allowing for the Senator from MA and the more blue dog Dems, there should still be 51 or more Senators who would vote for the House version of the HCR bill. All it would take is the fortitude to wait out a filibuster by the Republicans. To the best of my knowledge, the only filibuster the Democrats have allowed to start since 2006 only lasted one night before they pulled the bill. What would it take for them to actual go to the mattresses and force the Republicans to keep talking until they give up? If they will never do if for HCR, what would the do it for?

Jonathan

Last edited by Strassia; 01-21-2010 at 11:35 AM.. Reason: Added a question for clarity.
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 01-21-2010, 12:11 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Can someone give me a summary (or a link thereto) of how the U.S. senate gets paralyzed in this way?
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 01-21-2010, 12:24 PM
ElvisL1ves ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: New England
Posts: 33,269
Easily enough. The pain-free filibuster dates all the way back to 2005, and the stand-down from Lott's threat of the nuclear option. The result:
Quote:
In the 2007-08 session of Congress, Republicans forced 112 cloture votes, nearly doubling the Democrats' record when they were in the minority.

Filibuster was invoked sparingly in less partisan times – an average of once a year in the 1950s, but 139 times by Republicans in 2008.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 01-21-2010, 12:25 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
It's 'going to the MATS' as in wrestling, not 'mattresses,' which are more suitable for sleep or sex.

Last edited by RTFirefly; 01-21-2010 at 12:26 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 01-21-2010, 12:32 PM
Strassia Strassia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers View Post
Can someone give me a summary (or a link thereto) of how the U.S. senate gets paralyzed in this way?
Here is the Wikipedia article on the practice in the U.S. Here is the Senate's own page on the subject. And here is an article on some of the frustrations with how the two parties use the practice.

What I am really talking about is the fact that currently Congress allows pain free filibusters which basically mean that they won't even bring the bill to the floor unless they are sure of at least 60 votes. From the Wiki link:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wikipedia
Procedural filibuster

In current practice, Senate Rule 22 permits filibusters in which actual continuous floor speeches are not required, although the Senate Majority Leader may require an actual traditional filibuster if he or she so chooses.[13]
So it is up to Harry Reid to force the opposition to go through the pain of actually talking non stop for days at a time (record: 57 days for the Civil Rights Act) or just let them have their way pain free.

Jonathan
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 01-21-2010, 12:36 PM
Strassia Strassia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
It's 'going to the MATS' as in wrestling, not 'mattresses,' which are more suitable for sleep or sex.
[off topic]"going to the mattresses" is a quote from The Godfather. It refers to when the mobs go to war, they pull all the soldiers into the Corleone compound and have them sleeping on mattresses all over the house. Cite.
[/off topic]
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 01-21-2010, 12:44 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers View Post
Can someone give me a summary (or a link thereto) of how the U.S. senate gets paralyzed in this way?
A quick history of the filibuster:

1) Senate rules have, since early in the 19th century, been interpreted to allow for infinite debate.
2) Beginning sometime in mid-19th century, some who wanted to block a bill would 'debate' as long as they could hold out.
3) 'Filibuster' was a term initially applied to persons who engaged in private military actions overseas, such as William Walker. But the term got applied to Senators who were hijacking the proceedings of the Senate in this manner.
4) Somewhere around the Wilson presidency, IIRC, a Senate rule was passed to enable a 2/3 majority of the Senate to shut up such talkers via a cloture motion, bringing debate to an end whether the talkers wanted it or not.
5) In the 1970s, the 2/3 was reduced to 3/5.
6) Throughout all this, filibusters were very rare compared to today.
7) Up until the 1980s, a filibuster took precedence: while one was proceeding, no other business could be conducted on the Senate floor. Sen. Robert Byrd then instituted a rule that allowed for filibustered bill to essentially be set to one side while other matters proceeded on the Senate floor. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but paradoxically made filibustering easier, since one could do so to derail a particular bill, rather than the entire business of the Senate.
8) By 1993, the GOP notices this, and turns the filibuster into a fairly routine supermajority requirement during the first Clinton Congress. Doing so effectively keeps the Dems from accomplishing much. Voters, unaware of the details, just know that the Dems have the White House and big majorities in Congress, but still aren't doing shit. Result: the GOP wins big in November 1994.
9) The Dems, in the minority from 1995-2006, use the filibuster far more frequently than in the pre-1993 era, but their use of it is still basically selective.
10) The Dems win back Congress in 2006, and in 2007, the GOP routinizes the use of the filibuster as a 60-vote supermajority requirement for everything.

I've obviously got a bias here, but that's pretty much it AFAIAC.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 01-21-2010, 12:52 PM
E-Sabbath E-Sabbath is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Up The River
Posts: 13,945
Predates it considerably, though. I've seen the phrase used in more than one pulp gangster novel I've picked up from the 50s and before.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 01-21-2010, 12:56 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
Quote:
Originally Posted by Strassia View Post
To the best of my knowledge, the only filibuster the Democrats have allowed to start since 2006 only lasted one night before they pulled the bill.
And that wasn't even a filibuster - the Dems hadn't yet tried to invoke cloture, so the GOP hadn't blocked it yet.
Quote:
What would it take for them to actual go to the mattresses and force the Republicans to keep talking until they give up? If they will never do if for HCR, what would the do it for?
Breaking a filibuster would be difficult. To sustain a filibuster, the minority just needs a couple of Senators who can take turns talking: while one talks, the other can catch his breath, go to the john, grab something to eat or drink, etc.

But to break a filibuster by exhaustion, the majority needs 50 or more Senators in place for the whole time, because the filibusterers can demand a quorum call at any time. And if a quorum is called, and less than 50 Senators are present, then no Senate business - no votes on bills, no procedural votes, no motions, not even debate - can take place. Everyone, including the filibusterers, gets to go home until the Senate reconvenes.

That means the fifty ALL have to outlast the two. And of course, if the two show signs of faltering, the minority can bring in another two Senators, and let the original two leave the floor.

So it's essentially impossible for a filibuster to be broken that way, as long as the minority regards it as important to block the bill.

So it's 60 votes, or bust, when it comes to breaking a filibuster.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 01-21-2010, 01:05 PM
Strassia Strassia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
A quick history of the filibuster:

1) Senate rules have, since early in the 19th century, been interpreted to allow for infinite debate.
2) Beginning sometime in mid-19th century, some who wanted to block a bill would 'debate' as long as they could hold out.
3) 'Filibuster' was a term initially applied to persons who engaged in private military actions overseas, such as William Walker. But the term got applied to Senators who were hijacking the proceedings of the Senate in this manner.
4) Somewhere around the Wilson presidency, IIRC, a Senate rule was passed to enable a 2/3 majority of the Senate to shut up such talkers via a cloture motion, bringing debate to an end whether the talkers wanted it or not.
5) In the 1970s, the 2/3 was reduced to 3/5.
6) Throughout all this, filibusters were very rare compared to today.
7) Up until the 1980s, a filibuster took precedence: while one was proceeding, no other business could be conducted on the Senate floor. Sen. Robert Byrd then instituted a rule that allowed for filibustered bill to essentially be set to one side while other matters proceeded on the Senate floor. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but paradoxically made filibustering easier, since one could do so to derail a particular bill, rather than the entire business of the Senate.
8) By 1993, the GOP notices this, and turns the filibuster into a fairly routine supermajority requirement during the first Clinton Congress. Doing so effectively keeps the Dems from accomplishing much. Voters, unaware of the details, just know that the Dems have the White House and big majorities in Congress, but still aren't doing shit. Result: the GOP wins big in November 1994.
9) The Dems, in the minority from 1995-2006, use the filibuster far more frequently than in the pre-1993 era, but their use of it is still basically selective.
10) The Dems win back Congress in 2006, and in 2007, the GOP routinizes the use of the filibuster as a 60-vote supermajority requirement for everything.

I've obviously got a bias here, but that's pretty much it AFAIAC.
That is a pretty good summary. The only thing you left out is when the Democrats were considering filibustering some nominations under Bush, the Republicans threatened the so called "nuclear option" of having the VP disallow filibusters on nominations. Of course this was in 2005 when some Republicans were talking about a permanent majority.

RTFirefly:

It has worked in the past, although it takes a long time. 57 days was the longest. It also takes the political will to go through with it. If the Democrats would literally go to the mattresses (they used to bring in cots an sleep just outside the chamber so they could go inside whenever a quorum was called) the Republicans would have to keep at it night and day until one or the other side gave up.

Jonathan
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 01-21-2010, 04:04 PM
griffin1977 griffin1977 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Strassia View Post
T
It has worked in the past, although it takes a long time. 57 days was the longest. It also takes the political will to go through with it. If the Democrats would literally go to the mattresses (they used to bring in cots an sleep just outside the chamber so they could go inside whenever a quorum was called) the Republicans would have to keep at it night and day until one or the other side gave up.
But will they do so ? I agree with the OP that if they don't do it for this, they it won't happen. And in that case you might as well say ALL legislation requires a super majority to get passed, and good luck getting any actual problems solved by government.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 01-21-2010, 04:19 PM
Strassia Strassia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by griffin1977 View Post
But will they do so ? I agree with the OP that if they don't do it for this, they it won't happen. And in that case you might as well say ALL legislation requires a super majority to get passed, and good luck getting any actual problems solved by government.
The problems is the Republicans use the filibuster so much more than the Democrats. So it appears that we have two choices: Republican agenda, or no agenda.

What I don't understand is the political calculation. If the Republicans can block the Democrats, Democrats are going to lose seats. How can pushing through the legislature your supporters want and you detractors hate be any worse for them come November. HCR has been set up to be a do or die issue. So why won't they do? What would it take to get them to play hard ball?

Jonathan
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 01-21-2010, 05:19 PM
Don't Call Me Shirley Don't Call Me Shirley is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by Strassia View Post
The problems is the Republicans use the filibuster so much more than the Democrats. So it appears that we have two choices: Republican agenda, or no agenda.

What I don't understand is the political calculation. If the Republicans can block the Democrats, Democrats are going to lose seats. How can pushing through the legislature your supporters want and you detractors hate be any worse for them come November. HCR has been set up to be a do or die issue. So why won't they do? What would it take to get them to play hard ball?

Jonathan
Political calculation: The Repubs put a de facto filibuster on everything in the Senate. Nothing gets done. Then in November, the Republican candidates campaign against "Washington" because "Washington" can't get anything done. And "Washington" is controlled by the Democrats, hence, it's the Democrats' fault nothing is getting done.

My bet is people are stupid enough to fall for it, and it will work.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 01-21-2010, 06:03 PM
boytyperanma boytyperanma is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by Strassia View Post
The problems is the Republicans use the filibuster so much more than the Democrats. So it appears that we have two choices: Republican agenda, or no agenda.

What I don't understand is the political calculation. If the Republicans can block the Democrats, Democrats are going to lose seats. How can pushing through the legislature your supporters want and you detractors hate be any worse for them come November. HCR has been set up to be a do or die issue. So why won't they do? What would it take to get them to play hard ball?

Jonathan
Another option would to be to put up 'good' legislation that can gain widespread support of the people. Make the Republicans publicly fight it. Then when elections come around and nothing is still getting done the people can vote out the people that are actively stopping the good legislation from taking place. Thus gain the super majority they need.

Unfortunately the democrats start at the point of compromise and let their work get torn down even further, so they have no 'good' bills that can gain widespread popular support.

IMO the Democrating party as it stands now can not break a filibuster. They are an un-unified party fighting a unified one.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 01-21-2010, 06:43 PM
Strassia Strassia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don't Call Me Shirley View Post
Political calculation: The Repubs put a de facto filibuster on everything in the Senate. Nothing gets done. Then in November, the Republican candidates campaign against "Washington" because "Washington" can't get anything done. And "Washington" is controlled by the Democrats, hence, it's the Democrats' fault nothing is getting done.

My bet is people are stupid enough to fall for it, and it will work.
Which is why I think forcing a real filibuster is the way to go. Even if the republicans can keep it up until the November elections, it would be hard to blame the Dems for not getting anything done when the Reps are out there reciting poetry 24x7 to stop them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by boytyperanma View Post
Another option would to be to put up 'good' legislation that can gain widespread support of the people. Make the Republicans publicly fight it. Then when elections come around and nothing is still getting done the people can vote out the people that are actively stopping the good legislation from taking place. Thus gain the super majority they need.

Unfortunately the democrats start at the point of compromise and let their work get torn down even further, so they have no 'good' bills that can gain widespread popular support.

IMO the Democrating party as it stands now can not break a filibuster. They are an un-unified party fighting a unified one.
The problem is that real legislation is complicated. An example mentioned on NPR's Talk of the Nation was from the health bill. Everyone agrees that regulation that prevents insurers from denying coverage due to preexisting conditions would be a good thing. But if you have that you need a mandate to keep people from only getting insurance once they need it. Then you need subsidies for those that can't afford it. Now, you need to fund it. Do you cut spending somewhere (such as medicare benefits) or raise taxes? So you can't have the thing everybody thinks is good without three things that many people object to.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 01-22-2010, 03:20 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
Quote:
Originally Posted by Strassia View Post
That is a pretty good summary. The only thing you left out is when the Democrats were considering filibustering some nominations under Bush, the Republicans threatened the so called "nuclear option" of having the VP disallow filibusters on nominations. Of course this was in 2005 when some Republicans were talking about a permanent majority.
Thanks. Yeah, I did leave the 2005 'nuclear option' bit out, because no permanent change occurred. (The Dems temporarily lost their ability to filibuster judicial appointments, and got nothing in return, but that ceased at the end of that Congress.)

Quote:
RTFirefly:

It has worked in the past, although it takes a long time. 57 days was the longest. It also takes the political will to go through with it. If the Democrats would literally go to the mattresses (they used to bring in cots an sleep just outside the chamber so they could go inside whenever a quorum was called) the Republicans would have to keep at it night and day until one or the other side gave up.
I'm not an expert on that particular bit of filibuster lore, but my understanding is that, back then, neither party was supporting the filibuster, and since the Senate could do no other business while the filibuster continued, there was pressure from both parties on the filibusterers.

While it's true that the majority party today could force the bill being filibustered to remain on the floor, the fact is that the current minority party is 100% in support of the filibuster, and would divide its members into teams, each taking shifts to talk talk talk through the days and nights. With 41 Senators in the minority, and only 2 needed on the floor at any one time, the load on any individual Senator would be pretty small. But 50 of the 59 majority Senators would have to be available for quorum calls at all times, and one of them is 92 years old. I'd bet on the majority throwing in the towel well before the minority felt particularly imposed on.

Not to mention, there are multiple filibuster points for each bill. You can filibuster the motion to proceed, which brings it to the floor in the first place, for instance. I think that may be the only additional one, if no amendments are necessary - but if they are, they can all be filibustered.

But still, after you break the first filibuster, you've got to start right over with the second one. And that's just one bill.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 01-22-2010, 05:27 PM
Strassia Strassia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
Thanks. Yeah, I did leave the 2005 'nuclear option' bit out, because no permanent change occurred. (The Dems temporarily lost their ability to filibuster judicial appointments, and got nothing in return, but that ceased at the end of that Congress.)

I'm not an expert on that particular bit of filibuster lore, but my understanding is that, back then, neither party was supporting the filibuster, and since the Senate could do no other business while the filibuster continued, there was pressure from both parties on the filibusterers.

While it's true that the majority party today could force the bill being filibustered to remain on the floor, the fact is that the current minority party is 100% in support of the filibuster, and would divide its members into teams, each taking shifts to talk talk talk through the days and nights. With 41 Senators in the minority, and only 2 needed on the floor at any one time, the load on any individual Senator would be pretty small. But 50 of the 59 majority Senators would have to be available for quorum calls at all times, and one of them is 92 years old. I'd bet on the majority throwing in the towel well before the minority felt particularly imposed on.

Not to mention, there are multiple filibuster points for each bill. You can filibuster the motion to proceed, which brings it to the floor in the first place, for instance. I think that may be the only additional one, if no amendments are necessary - but if they are, they can all be filibustered.

But still, after you break the first filibuster, you've got to start right over with the second one. And that's just one bill.
The problem is that by allowing all the procedure filibusters, the Democrats have conceded their majority. They can get nothing done and the voters don't really notice who is stopping them. There has to be something that would make them actually make the Republicans work to stop the system under the cameras of CSPAN instead of just basically giving them veto power.

Jonathan
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 01-22-2010, 05:34 PM
Blalron Blalron is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2001
It would definitely work if they had the balls to do it, but the Democrats won't do it.

They are spineless cowards, who lack the courage of their convictions (assuming that most of them have any convictions beyond pleasing their corporate masters).

I'm done with them.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 01-22-2010, 06:06 PM
enigmatic enigmatic is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
I want to be careful here, because criticising other peoples governments never ends well here.

Is there any good argument this to occur other than "the rules kinda allow it"? It seems farcical to allow a very small number of individuals to derail the democratic process in this way and impede a majority opinion.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 01-22-2010, 06:17 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 25,541
The SEIU is allied with the government itself. As are the Teacher's Unions. At the last Democratic convention, the largest block of people in attendance were Teacher's Union representatives.

This is not a small issue. The public employees unions are running California into the ground and looting the treasury for their own ends. They have enormous influence in government and have the power to destroy pretty much any politician who crosses them. Yet I don't hear much clamoring for rules preventing them from interfering in elections.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 01-22-2010, 06:20 PM
Squink Squink is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blalron View Post
It would definitely work if they had the balls to do it, but the Democrats won't do it.
They have the balls, it's just that they keep gluing them to their thighs.
Playing nice is a disease that needs to be drummed out of leadership positions.
Unfortunately it's so pervasive that the only people who can make a dent in it are individual votes. They've got to stop electing wimps, even if they are three term senators.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 01-22-2010, 06:22 PM
Strassia Strassia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by enigmatic View Post
I want to be careful here, because criticising other peoples governments never ends well here.

Is there any good argument this to occur other than "the rules kinda allow it"? It seems farcical to allow a very small number of individuals to derail the democratic process in this way and impede a majority opinion.
As it exists now? No. As it was used a long time ago, I can see an argument. Basically it would come down to allowing a small minority who feel very strongly prevent action by a majority that does not care as much. It gives attention to the issue and forces those on both sides to suffer somewhat to get what they want. It could also just serve to slow down the process and encourage compromises.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 01-22-2010, 08:53 PM
Ají de Gallina Ají de Gallina is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
How many times have the Republicans actually filibuster anything in this congress?
Is there a procedure?
Or it's not even a procedural filibuster but rather the threat of a procedural filibuster?
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 01-22-2010, 09:43 PM
boytyperanma boytyperanma is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by enigmatic View Post
I want to be careful here, because criticising other peoples governments never ends well here.

Is there any good argument this to occur other than "the rules kinda allow it"? It seems farcical to allow a very small number of individuals to derail the democratic process in this way and impede a majority opinion.
There is some logic to it. It prevents the senate from simply ignoring issues that the a minority finds important. The idea is even a minority should get enough time to make their case for or against any legislation.

While I like the concept of unlimited debate in the senate and it has many merits, I find the senate has proven they can't be trusted to be responsible about it. So we can either replace senators as elections allow or convince the ones we have now to do away with these rules. In a perfect world I'd like to see responsible senators, but in our political structure I thinks that's to much to ask for.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 01-22-2010, 10:04 PM
jtgain jtgain is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
With 41 Senators in the minority, and only 2 needed on the floor at any one time, the load on any individual Senator would be pretty small. But 50 of the 59 majority Senators would have to be available for quorum calls at all times, and one of them is 92 years old. I'd bet on the majority throwing in the towel well before the minority felt particularly imposed on.
I'm going from memory here, but are you sure this is accurate? I thought that in the absence of a quorum, the Sargent at Arms could compel the attendance of any and all absent members, under threat of arrest, in order to establish a quorum.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 01-25-2010, 09:39 AM
Squink Squink is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Nice graph here:
White House Signals That It Will Fight Back Against GOP Abuse Of Filibuster

Titled "Cloture Voting, U.S. Senate, 1847 to 2008",
with link to Senate's own data page: http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/ref...tureCounts.htm

A few Democratic senators appear to be actually making a little noise about the issue, and getting a little press for it.
I am Shocked!
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 01-25-2010, 12:01 PM
toadspittle toadspittle is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Toadspittle Hill
Posts: 6,075
Quote:
Originally Posted by enigmatic View Post
I want to be careful here, because criticising other peoples governments never ends well here.

Is there any good argument this to occur other than "the rules kinda allow it"? It seems farcical to allow a very small number of individuals to derail the democratic process in this way and impede a majority opinion.
The initial idea is sort of a noble one: That any senator ALWAYS has the privilege to speak his or her mind about a subject, and that he or she cannot be silenced simply because the majority in the senate don't want to hear it. Rather civilized, no?

Unfortunately, in practice, it can lead to the sort of nonsense you see now.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 01-25-2010, 12:45 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
Quote:
Originally Posted by jtgain View Post
I'm going from memory here, but are you sure this is accurate? I thought that in the absence of a quorum, the Sargent at Arms could compel the attendance of any and all absent members, under threat of arrest, in order to establish a quorum.
That only works if the persons needed to make up a quorum are where the Sergeant-at-arms can find them. The fact remains that the Dems would have to keep 50 Senators within that ambit, and the GOP would only have to keep a few Senators at a time within the Sergeant-at-arms' reach.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 01-25-2010, 01:01 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone View Post
The SEIU is allied with the government itself. As are the Teacher's Unions. At the last Democratic convention, the largest block of people in attendance were Teacher's Union representatives.

This is not a small issue. The public employees unions are running California into the ground and looting the treasury for their own ends. They have enormous influence in government and have the power to destroy pretty much any politician who crosses them. Yet I don't hear much clamoring for rules preventing them from interfering in elections.
Please barf in the trashcans, not in the thread.

Seriously, this is just a pile of unrelated right-wing glurge that doesn't have anything to do with anything. This is just flinging poo in the hopes of...I'm not sure what. Every statement in your first paragraph means nothing, isn't backed by any cites, isn't connected with the actual issue under discussion, they're just stuff to throw in, like sand in the gears.

You should be ashamed of yourself.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 01-25-2010, 01:07 PM
Fenris Fenris is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Squink View Post
Nice graph here:
White House Signals That It Will Fight Back Against GOP Abuse Of Filibuster

Titled "Cloture Voting, U.S. Senate, 1847 to 2008",
with link to Senate's own data page: http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/ref...tureCounts.htm

A few Democratic senators appear to be actually making a little noise about the issue, and getting a little press for it.
I am Shocked!
I've heard (and from sources I tend not to trust) that all these "Republicans fillibuster much more than Democrats" charts/comments do not include Democrat fillibustering over judicial appointments. If so, these charts/stats are useless. If not....then yeah, there's major change.

Can someone point me to a source that would address this?
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 01-25-2010, 01:11 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
Quote:
Originally Posted by Strassia View Post
The problem is that by allowing all the procedure filibusters, the Democrats have conceded their majority. They can get nothing done and the voters don't really notice who is stopping them. There has to be something that would make them actually make the Republicans work to stop the system under the cameras of CSPAN instead of just basically giving them veto power.

Jonathan
I agree that there should be some way to either stop the minority from excessive use of procedural filibusters, or at least making them more visible to the public at large.

But just because something should work a certain way, doesn't mean it does.

I've been thinking about this problem for years, and one by one, my good ideas have been dashed by people who knew or understood the Senate rules better than I used to, until I've got nothing left. For instance, "make 'em filibuster!" used to be my battle cry, until I was enlightened about the quorum rule. I agree that if filibusters had to be out in the open where C-SPAN would show the minority talktalktalking to block a vote, it would be a game-changer in all the right ways. But first you'd need a 2/3 majority of the Senate voting to change Rule 22.
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 01-25-2010, 01:34 PM
Squink Squink is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fenris View Post
I've heard (and from sources I tend not to trust) that all these "Republicans fillibuster much more than Democrats" charts/comments do not include Democrat fillibustering over judicial appointments. If so, these charts/stats are useless. If not....then yeah, there's major change.

Can someone point me to a source that would address this?
Wikipedia on the nuclear option has this to say:
Quote:
President Bush has nominated forty-six candidates to federal appeals courts. Thirty-six had been confirmed. 10 were blocked and 7 were renominated in Spring 2005. Democrats point out that 63 of President Clinton's 248 nominees (40 of which were federal appeals court nominees) were blocked via procedural means at the committee level, denying them a confirmation vote and leaving the positions available for Bush to fill.[75]
If I'm reading that correctly, the blocking by filibuster of 10 nominees does not stack up well against the 112 Republican cloture maneuvers in 2007-2008.

Perhaps there are more such blocked nominations hidden in other parts of government?
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 01-25-2010, 01:35 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
I Am the One Who Bans
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 78,236
Modding

Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
You should be ashamed of yourself.
This isn't going to make this debate more productive, so please do not get personal. But I agree it would help if Sam Stone would explain how his statement relates to this topic. I think he's saying that the influence of private groups is more important than filibuster rules, and if so, that's a separate discussion for a separate thread.
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 01-25-2010, 01:55 PM
Squink Squink is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
It does seem that someone is trying to draw an equivalence between 10 and 112 (+39 so far in the 111th congress).
Quote:
The issue to which Klein refers was the Democratic minority's decision to use the filibuster to block a slate of ten Bush nominees to the federal courts of appeals. That across-the-board blockade was unprecedented in Senate history. It caused some Republicans, then in the majority, to come up with a plan to eliminate what became known as the "judicial filibuster."

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/op...#ixzz0deT73p4Z
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 01-25-2010, 02:23 PM
septimus septimus is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don't Call Me Shirley View Post
Political calculation: The Repubs put a de facto filibuster on everything in the Senate. Nothing gets done. Then in November, the Republican candidates campaign against "Washington" because "Washington" can't get anything done. And "Washington" is controlled by the Democrats, hence, it's the Democrats' fault nothing is getting done.

My bet is people are stupid enough to fall for it, and it will work.
This is hardly a new strategy for the GOP. Harper's has published some great articles describing Republican policies to deliberately make Americans hate their government. And of course "saving taxpayer dollars" by underfunding very inexpensive programs like meat inspection or even programs that pay for themselves (e.g. IRS!) is particularly pernicious.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
Breaking a filibuster would be difficult....
Demos would have to play hardball. Televise Senate sessions with frequent cloture votes, with a voice-over explaining that 41 Senators are happy if uninsured people die.

Or the President of the Senate could pound his gavel and declare that under Article I of the Constitution, a motion by the Rules Committee to amend the Senate's Standing Rules is in order at any time.

Or just roll over and play dead, letting Rush Limbaugh run the country, regardless of how American voters vote.

Last edited by septimus; 01-25-2010 at 02:26 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 01-25-2010, 03:06 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marley23 View Post
This isn't going to make this debate more productive, so please do not get personal.
So noted. My apologies.
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 01-25-2010, 03:14 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
Quote:
Originally Posted by septimus View Post
Demos would have to play hardball. Televise Senate sessions with frequent cloture votes, with a voice-over explaining that 41 Senators are happy if uninsured people die.
Who's gonna pay for this? C-SPAN already televises Senate sessions, whether they've got cloture votes going on or not. But the Democratic Party would have to find the money somewhere for televising sessions with voice-overs, and anyone who got irritated by the voice-overs would change back to C-SPAN.

Quote:
Or the President of the Senate could pound his gavel and declare that under Article I of the Constitution, a motion by the Rules Committee to amend the Senate's Standing Rules is in order at any time.
Article I is a pretty big place. Got a specific part that you think Biden should cite?

Quote:
Or just roll over and play dead, letting Rush Limbaugh run the country, regardless of how American voters vote.
There's a lot I think the Dems could do in the way of not rolling over, starting with not collectively wetting their pants after one lousy special election went against them, leaving them with only a 59-41 majority in the Senate.

But with respect to the filibuster, they really don't have any immediate options that I can see. First step is simply educating the public to what's going on, and that will take some time.
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 01-25-2010, 11:40 PM
septimus septimus is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
Article I is a pretty big place. Got a specific part that you think Biden should cite?
Section 5: "... Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member."

"Each House may determine [its] Rules..." Do you need a cite why this implies simple majority? The Senate can impose rules on itself, but, short of a Constitutional Amendment, it can't self-impose a meta-rule that prevents it from "determining [its] Rules."

Now, how the proposed scenario would play out may be an interesting question! Would the Sergeant-at-Arms end up dialing 911? Would the South Carolina militia start bombarding Fort Sumter again? But do let's agree that the possibility is not off-limits just because FoxNews says so.
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 01-26-2010, 03:42 AM
septimus septimus is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by septimus View Post
Section 5: "... Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings ... The Senate can impose rules on itself, but, short of a Constitutional Amendment, it can't self-impose a meta-rule that prevents it from "determining [its] Rules."
I don't think this interpetation is particularly novel, by the way; it's essentially the oft-mentioned "Nuclear Option." The problem is not the legality of such a vote, but rather finding 51 Senators willing to defy Glenn Beck.

Republicans had no problem making the "Nuclear" threat in order to pack the federal judiciary with right-wingers, and were doubtless called "brave patriots" for doing so. If Democrats dare to go "Nuclear" to achieve something worthwhile, they'll be labeled "baby-killing Fascists" or some such gobbledy-gook: will they dare?

(Of course this all presupposes that Demos intend something "worthwhile." Some liberals now believe that the health-care bill has been so compromised that right-wingers are giggling in glee and only pretending to oppose it.)

Last edited by septimus; 01-26-2010 at 03:43 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 01-26-2010, 04:29 AM
MEBuckner MEBuckner is offline
Charter Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Posts: 10,395
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
Article I is a pretty big place. Got a specific part that you think Biden should cite?
The quorum to conduct business in either House of Congress is constitutionally defined to be a majority.

The Vice President is given a vote in the Senate in the event of a tie. If pretty much every bill has to pass by a three-fifths majority, that's a pretty pointless stipulation.

Senate convictions in impeachments, expulsions of members from either house, veto overrides, and Senate approval of treaties all require approval by two thirds (either of the Houses of Congress generally or the Senate specifically; that last one is from the President's Article, not Article I.) And of course from Article V Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority, followed by an even larger supermajority of the states. The Framers of the Constitution were perfectly capable of specifying supermajorities where they deemed it necessary, and if they intended for practically all business in the Senate to require a three-fifths vote, presumably they would have said so (and left out the bit about the Vice President having the power to break tie votes).

I really wish Alexander Hamilton had been a better shot.
__________________
"In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves." -- Carl Sagan
Reply With Quote
  #41  
Old 01-26-2010, 10:13 AM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
Responding both to septimus and MEB:

MEB, your post seems to be about the constitutionality of the filibuster. There's been a bit of discussion on some of the lefty blogs lately about this, and I'm sure that some of that informs your post. Nonetheless, I have to come down on the side that the Framers clearly intended that majorities of both Houses should suffice, but that that only carries the day if one is of the 'original intent' school of Constitutional interpretation. If the Senate wants to have a rule saying that supermajorities are needed to pass legislation, they can do that, IMHO.

I'm more persuaded by the argument septimus makes: that Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution affirmatively grants each House of Congress the authority to decide its rules by majority vote. And that it's just a question of the Dems' having the guts to claim that authority and use it.

Back when the GOP was threatening to use the 'nuclear option,' I wasn't sure how I felt about the underlying issue, but even though no vote was taken in the end, due to the idiotic 'Gang of 14' compromise (the worst of all worlds, IMHO), everyone seemed to agree at the time the the GOP could have called that vote; the question was whether they had an actual majority in favor of abolishing the filibuster on judicial nominations. (They weren't sure that they did, which was why they chose to agree to the compromise. And the Dems went along with it because they were stupid, and apparently didn't realize that the composition of the Gang of 14 meant that they were forfeiting their right to filibuster, without the GOP's actually having to cram it down their throats via vote. But I digress.)
Reply With Quote
  #42  
Old 01-26-2010, 10:46 AM
Strassia Strassia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
Responding both to septimus and MEB:

MEB, your post seems to be about the constitutionality of the filibuster. There's been a bit of discussion on some of the lefty blogs lately about this, and I'm sure that some of that informs your post. Nonetheless, I have to come down on the side that the Framers clearly intended that majorities of both Houses should suffice, but that that only carries the day if one is of the 'original intent' school of Constitutional interpretation. If the Senate wants to have a rule saying that supermajorities are needed to pass legislation, they can do that, IMHO.

I'm more persuaded by the argument septimus makes: that Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution affirmatively grants each House of Congress the authority to decide its rules by majority vote. And that it's just a question of the Dems' having the guts to claim that authority and use it.

Back when the GOP was threatening to use the 'nuclear option,' I wasn't sure how I felt about the underlying issue, but even though no vote was taken in the end, due to the idiotic 'Gang of 14' compromise (the worst of all worlds, IMHO), everyone seemed to agree at the time the the GOP could have called that vote; the question was whether they had an actual majority in favor of abolishing the filibuster on judicial nominations. (They weren't sure that they did, which was why they chose to agree to the compromise. And the Dems went along with it because they were stupid, and apparently didn't realize that the composition of the Gang of 14 meant that they were forfeiting their right to filibuster, without the GOP's actually having to cram it down their throats via vote. But I digress.)
Here is an article that goes over what it would take to change the rules. Currently Rule 22 requires two-thirds majority to change the filibuster rule. But, a strict reading of the Constitution could be taken to mean that each two year session of Congress can set its own rules, meaning they are not bound by Rule 22 unless they vote to continue it with a 51% majority every two year session.
Reply With Quote
  #43  
Old 01-26-2010, 12:20 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
Quote:
Originally Posted by Strassia View Post
Here is an article that goes over what it would take to change the rules. Currently Rule 22 requires two-thirds majority to change the filibuster rule. But, a strict reading of the Constitution could be taken to mean that each two year session of Congress can set its own rules, meaning they are not bound by Rule 22 unless they vote to continue it with a 51% majority every two year session.
The article makes the point that:
Quote:
A greater obstacle, though, is that if the Democrats were to push through and eliminate the filibuster using the nuclear option, they could expect massive retaliation from Republicans through every conceivable type of petty procedural obstruction. This is all too easy to achieve in the Senate, where you can scarcely go to the bathroom without requesting unanimous consent. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, got a preview of what a Senate nuclear winter might feel like when he introduced a purely symbolic single-payer amendment to the health-reform bill. Sanders knew it would fail, but wanted to make a stand. He asked unanimous consent that the Senate dispense with the reading of the amendment, which was several hundred pages long. This is an utterly routine courtesy. But Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a hard-right opponent of health reform, was feeling pissy. He refused. As a result, the clerk had to read the entire thing. Eventually Sanders gave up and withdrew his amendment.
However, once you've gotten rid of the need for a 2/3 majority to change the rules, the simplest course would be to eliminate any other rules that were used simply as delaying tactics, by a simple majority vote.

If a party has the White House and a majority in both houses of Congress, they ought to be able to legislate. Period.
Reply With Quote
  #44  
Old 01-26-2010, 01:03 PM
Strassia Strassia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
The article makes the point that:
However, once you've gotten rid of the need for a 2/3 majority to change the rules, the simplest course would be to eliminate any other rules that were used simply as delaying tactics, by a simple majority vote.

If a party has the White House and a majority in both houses of Congress, they ought to be able to legislate. Period.
I am ok with forcing the majority to hear objections of the minority. I am even comfortable with a system that allows a dedicated minority to have disproportionate influence, but only if the influence requires that dedication and extracts a cost. If a bill would have a small positive effect for a majority but a large negative effect for a minority, the minority should be able to offset the size and block the bill, as long as the bar is high enough that it will only work when the minority cares a lot more about blocking than the majority does about passing. The minority should not be able to stop everything all the time no matter how much the majority may want or need it.

Jonathan
Reply With Quote
  #45  
Old 01-26-2010, 04:56 PM
Dick Dastardly Dick Dastardly is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
It would take a new set of Senate Dems, ones that aren't bought and paid for by corporations.
Reply With Quote
  #46  
Old 01-27-2010, 01:06 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Dastardly View Post
It would take a new set of Senate Dems, ones that aren't bought and paid for by corporations.
And in the wake of Citizens United, that's a bigger pipe dream than ever.
Reply With Quote
  #47  
Old 01-27-2010, 01:14 PM
ElvisL1ves ElvisL1ves is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: New England
Posts: 33,269
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
If a party has the White House and a majority in both houses of Congress, they ought to be able to legislate. Period.
Neither you nor I thought so when Bush's GOP had that situation, remember?

There's a good reason for the filibuster rule to exist, just as there's a good reason for the Constitution to be amendable, but both need to be very difficult.
Reply With Quote
  #48  
Old 01-28-2010, 10:38 AM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 27,420
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves View Post
Neither you nor I thought so when Bush's GOP had that situation, remember?
I've done a bit of digging to try to find how I felt about this back then. I was clearly in favor of judicial filibusters, although I thought that such filibustering should have to take place in the open, where the public would know who was obstructing, so the citizenry could reach their own conclusions about the filibusterers. That's pretty much how I still feel: because judicial appointments can't be undone, there should be a higher hurdle to clear. (Ditto wars: there should damned well be a supermajority requirement for committing troops overseas. You can't undo going to war, and we should damned well be united as a nation in doing so.)

I probably felt the same way about legislation in general, so your question is a good one: have I changed my mind now that my side's got the power? I can't say I haven't: I can give you my reasons for changing my mind, but that hardly excludes the possibility that those reasons are rationalizations for changing my position for reasons having to do with whose ox might get gored.

Basically, my thinking has been shaped by the increasing realization that our system's essentially turned into a parliamentary system, just without the official structure of one. What's more, that appears to be the natural way of things. The era when many conservative Democrats were more conservative than many moderate and liberal Republicans - the era of 'bipartisanship' that Broder et al. celebrate - seems to have been an artifact of the long years of Jim Crow, rather than a natural situation. And in parliamentary democracies, the winning side gets to enact its agenda; if the voters don't like that agenda, they shouldn't have voted for that party in the first place, and if they change their minds once that agenda's enacted, they can vote the bums out. But ineffectiveness at enacting an agenda doesn't play into it - and my increasing feeling is, it shouldn't: if you win, you get to pass legislation, and if you lose, the other side gets to repeal it and pass theirs. If certain programs become popular enough (e.g. Medicare), then even the side that was against it won't run on repealing it or cutting it back. But what it creates is a clear field for accountability to the voters. A visible filibuster that requires more inconvenience on the part of the minority than the majority, per your suggestion, would be a big step in the right direction, but it's still one more thing for voters to have to observe that might still fly below their radar.

Most voters don't spend a lot of time thinking about government. I'm all for reducing the equation for them to: 'Party A ran on X, Y, Z, and won. Now that they did X, Y, and Z, how's that working out?'

I think democracy can work at that level. But the more procedural complexity in the system that puts roadblocks in the way of a party with the Presidency and Congressional majorities from doing what they said they'd do, the less clear it is to voters who's responsible for the difference between running on X, Y, and Z, and only doing X. Makes voters more cynical too.
Reply With Quote
  #49  
Old 01-28-2010, 04:06 PM
Strassia Strassia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
As I said before, a weakened version of the filibuster has some utility. I would be ok with being able to invoke cloture with 55% (or maybe even 60%) of the current quorum. That way both sides have to suffer the hardship. As it is now, the minority can stop all business much easier than the majority can restart it.
Reply With Quote
  #50  
Old 01-28-2010, 04:07 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by Strassia View Post
As I said before, a weakened version of the filibuster has some utility. I would be ok with being able to invoke cloture with 55% (or maybe even 60%) of the current quorum. That way both sides have to suffer the hardship. As it is now, the minority can stop all business much easier than the majority can restart it.
It is 60% now.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:45 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.