Time to eliminate Senate filibusters?

Is it time to finally do away with the filibuster in the Senate?

In theory, the Senate is supposed to be the moderating house of Congress. And the filibuster is considered to be a part of that, by forcing the majority opinion to deal with the minority. But in practice, it seems to me that the filibuster is used to polarize rather than moderate. The minority party enforces strict discipline in order to maintain the threat of filibuster, in order to have any influence. However, without strict party discipline, individual Senators might find it easier to work across the aisle.

And both parties have been using procedures to avoid the filibuster. Senators complain, but both parties know it’s necessary to get what they want done. Is it time that they recognized the de facto change and simply removed the filibuster?

And if it should be removed, could it be? If the Democrats can manage to get 60 seats, then they will be filibuster-proof anyway, and so it might be possible to remove it without too much resistance. It wouldn’t affect the operation of the Senate immediately.

And I’m not seeing changing Senate procedures as a campaign issue that most voters will care about. Politically, most filibusters don’t do anything to enhance the polling of the partaking party, anyway.

How did you feel about them when the Democrats were in the minority?

The Daily Show had a hilarious juxtoposition showing Gregg Judd pontificating about the value of filibusters on the senate floor, then a clip of him railing against them four years ago. Cut to a clip of Nancy Pelosi denigrating them today, and another of her talking about how important they were four years ago.

People’s opinion of the filibuster is usually determined by whether or not what they want to do is being blocked by them.

I think they should be allowed, but only if they’re done in an entertaining way. No more than 1 hour of reading the dictionary. After that you’ve got to put on some type of impromptu sketch comedy/variety show.

I wouldn’t be opposed to removing the procedural filibuster, which as I understand it means “we declare we have enough votes that we’ll threaten to allow this filibuster on this subject if you don’t capitulate, but we won’t actually jeopardize any of our Senators’ reputations by making them do the dirty work of actually, in fact, conducting a filibuster.”

In other words: nobody wants to look bad on TV. They want all the power of the filibuster without any of the sacrifice: namely, standing up in Congress and reading from the dictionary and visibly commit to bringing government to a halt.

I can see getting rid of that. The procedural filibuster is like threatening to bell the cat.

I agree, and I think that’s a good reason to simply eliminate the procedure. Filibusters are polarizing and obstructionist.

As for my feelings about past Democratic filibusters, since I’m a Republican (although typically a disloyal one), I’ve been against them. Either because I agreed with the Republican stance, or because I disagreed and thought the Democrats should have given them more rope to hang with.

For the current circumstances, I quite happy to see the current batch of elected Republicans be cut out of any legislative influences. They messed up big, were punished by the electorate, and need to take their lumps.

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While I might find it entertaining to force Senators to actually talk through a filibuster, I don’t think law-making should be a test of physical endurance. Politicians have a hard enough time passing reasonable laws under normal circumstances, and I’d rather not have sleep-deprived, dehydrated ones doing it.

Didn’t care for them. Probably one of the stupidest things I remember in recent government was when the two parties had that asinine sleepover at the Capitol where each person got 30 minutes to speak and if anyone wasn’t present for their turn (or fell asleep, whatever) then the other party would run in and pass legislation.

I realize that that was not a filibuster. My point is just that I’m willing to think that stupid government is stupid government regardless of who’s in power. I suppose someone could make a good enough argument for the filibuster to convince me that it should be retained in some limited fashion. The GOP has used it unendingly though since becoming the Senate minority, breaking all historical records (including their own from 07 to 08) by two or three times the old record which has highlighted the problem in the last few years.

Not to stomp on this thread but I raised the same topic not long ago and it turns out that “real” filibustering is as boring as procedural filibustering. No lengthy book reading or rants, just someone making a roll call every half hour or so.

The board search engine should be shot. I did a search on “filibuster” and that thread did not come up.

Or at least subjected to a motion to recommit.

I’m all for eliminating the filibuster – but, then, I’m all for eliminating the Senate.

I’ve been against the filibuster since I knew what it was. I did not, however, know about the reconciliation bill exception. This was apparently only first used to get around or abuse the filibuster right (depending on how you see it) during W’s reign of error. I’d still like to eliminate the filibuster and I am all for pushing through important legislation during reconciliation. But I suspect that Democrats don’t have enough spine to do it.

Keep in mind that 40 Senators elected by slim majorities from the 20 smallest states can sustain a filibuster. Not one of the smallest 20 states has even 1 percent of the US population, and together they are about 11 percent of the population. So less than 11 percent can hold up the entire rest of the 89 percent, and that the top 73% population states (the top 19) can’t accomplish the same thing. http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?p=11000295&posted=1#post11000295

This is, of course, absurd under a theory that the US should have equal representation and one person one vote.

So the recent precedent with reconciliation is a good thing, and eliminating the filibuster would be a bad thing.

What was once an extraordinary measure has become commonplace.

I’m not sure I want to see the filibuster eliminated. There is some value to a vote mechanism that not only measures the overall distribution of opinion, but also the intensity of that opinion. But if the filibuster gets used as much as it was by the 110th Congress, then it is no longer a measure of intense opposition but rather just a change of rules requiring 60 Senate votes for anything significant.

I don’t want to see a Senate majority get rid of the filibuster, but I’d also like the minority to exercise it with discretion. Perhaps a sort of arms treaty can be reached in which the majority agrees not to change the cloture rules and the minority agrees to reduce the use of the filibuster first to 2008 levels, then 2000 levels, and each side can keep the deal going until we get back to reasonable usage of it.

Without the Senate we’d have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and flag burning. The Senate is necessary.

Also keep in mind that the US constitution was set up to prevent the tyranny of the majority. This can be very important to some people (as Captain Carrot points out above).

I had so forgotten that! Yes, my illustration of the mathematical absurdity of the Senate filibuster rules is entirely trumped by tyranny of the protections for the minority in the constitution. Filibuster doesn’t protect populations of minority in the general public.