A modest proposal on judicial filibusters

Heck, all filibusters, for that matter.

Given the immense number of judicial filibuster threads, I did not take the time to read them all to determine whether or not my modest proposal has previously been debated. If it has, my apologies, and go on about your daily activities.

If it hasn’t…

A substantial part of the problem with filibusters is that they have become too easy. It is no longer necessary for the filibustering Senators to actually stand and speak - no need to stay awake all night, pee into cups, etc. Effectively, to filibuster these days, all a Senator needs to do is declare a filibuster and have 40 other Senators support him/her. In olden days, when Senators had to actually, actively filibuster on the floor of the Senate, the things were rare. With the end of the need to conduct a real filibuster, the result has been that 60 votes, not 51, are needed to pass most Senate resolutions.

So, my modest proposal is simple: require filibustering Senators to go out there and shut the Senate down by actually filibustering. Make them experience the discomfort and fatigue. Additionally, increase pressure on supporting Senators to change positions and vote for cloture by allowing no other Senate votes to take place while a filibuster is ongoing. If a filibuster returns to being an extreme, disruptive event, it will only be used in the most “extraordinary circumstances.”


For what it’s worth, senators on the other side of a filibuster seem to prefer the current rules as well. Since a live filibuster requires the majority to remain in attendance as well – to prevent the opposition from ending debate and voting to defeat whatever measure is at issue while the majority members are away and unable to vote – the current rules appear to be easier on both sides.

I recommended the exact thing when we frist started debating the “nuclear option” in this forum, so I agree 100%. If it isn’t worth shutting Congress down, then don’t do it. It’s supposed to be an option reserved for the most extreme circumstances.

Right. The trouble with this proposal is that it requires the majority to shut down all other Senate activity until the filibusterers (is that a word?) give up. For something like a Supreme Court nomination it might be worth it, for less important votes the majority would rather just give in and get on the daily business of raising our taxes and destroying our freedoms.

But that’s democracy for ya. The majority can fuck us up, because they are the majority. Requiring more than a majority vote on an issue should be a big deal, and a rare one, because it is a departure from democratic principles.


How about this proposal: Make a rule change so that confirmation votes for judicial nominees can only be filibustered the old fashioned way. For legislative votes, nothing changes. By making this only applicable to judicial nominees, it doesn’t upset the status quo so much, but gets the Pubs what they want. Call it the “bunker buster option”-- it’s a bomb, but not a nuclear one. :slight_smile:

Exactly, if your not willing to defend an issue by sitting uncomfortably for many hours either, then you should give in.

Hey, I’m not here to make life easy for Senators; I’m here with a Modest Proposal. :smiley: Actually, inconveniencing the other side would, IMO, also act to limit filibusters - you may need Senator X’s support on another bill, and therefore you might not want to piss Senator X off by making him stay up all night.

John Mace, your suggestion is a pretty neat compromise, although I honestly have never really understood why a distinction is made between judicial and legislative filibusters.


FTR, I am probably going to be virulently opposed to whomever Bush nominates.


Like minty pointed out, the majority already has the option of making the filibustering minority “actually” filibuster. ISTM that the logic of scoring political points should dictate their choice: if they feel public opinion’s on their side, they should put the minority on the spot and make 'em filibuster. But if the majority thinks they would be the ones embarrassed by publicizing the filibuster, then they should quietly fold and go on to the next order of business.

Seems to me that that would, in a rough sense, be democracy in action.

I gotta admit, it’d make lousy TV.

Tonight on C-SPAN, continuing coverage of debate on Alberto Gonzales’ nomination to the Supreme Court. Speaking is Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

“Bernard, Francis B., 11684 Pine Street, Southeast, 642-6558
Bernard, Frederick G., 1457 Tenth Street Northwest, 582-1642
Bernard, George …”

Why? He was elected on an explicit campaign promise to appoint judges like Scalia and Thomas. Do you think he has an obligation to appoint someone whose judicial philosophy he disagrees with?

I tell ya, it’d ruin the normally nonstop excitement and thrill-a-minute rollercoaster that is C-SPAN!



Big jump there, John. I do not think Pres. Bush has any obligation to appoint whose judicial philosophy Bush disagrees with.

But I don’t see how the fact that Pres. Bush is sticking to his campaign promises obliges me to (i) like his campaign promises, or (ii) approve of his nominees.


OK. Sorry for misinterptreting you post.

De nada

Is that an implicit endorsement of Gonzales? :slight_smile:

I am one of the Kerry voters who said the re-election of Bush would be like choosing Mordor and Sauron over Frodo and the Fellowship. And I believe subsequent events bear that out.

Be that as it may, if there was a straightforward way of confining Senatorial debate to on-topic mateiral, so that they could not read the Oxford Unabridged into the record in lieu of having anything useful to say, I’d totally favor that.

And I’m open to suggestion. I’ll even make one of my own: if 60% of Senators agree that the content is off-topic, the speaker has to yield. (Perhaps 60% of Senators would agree to this while less than 60% of Senators would agree to ending debate and calling for a vote).

Regarding the OP though: it is my understanding that the (in this case) Republican Senators can simply choose to ignore the “notice of intent to filibuster” and thereby make it necessary for the (in this case) Democratic Senators to actually spend the time at the podium until the Pubbies agree to table the issue. So there’s nothing procedural in place DEMANDING that a threat to filibuster be treated with kid gloves, it’s just what they do.

George Bush has a “judicial philosophy”? Is that the new buzz word for political agenda?

I can’t say that I will automatically disapprove of whomever he nominates. He is getting input from former Republican Senator and Watergate Counsel (for the good guys) Fred Thompson. If the President listens to Thompson, he will get sound advice. There may be rumblings and grumblings, but there will be a good chance the nomination will be palatable.

The President also had another explicit campaign promise: efforts toward bringing this country back together and healing the partisanship that divides us.