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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Time to Filibuster the Filibuster

By Lisa Redding
Stymied, congested, bunged up, and filibusted. That last one might not be a word, but it ought to be. When Congress wants to filibuster it only takes 41 votes to tango. This is a filibusted Congress because there are 41 Republicans hell bent on opposing just about every policy President Barack Obama and the Democrats have.
The result is such a dysfunctional swampy bog of a Senate that nothing is getting done. It is making the Do Nothing Congress look like a bunch of workaholics. There is an atmosphere, certainly among Republicans, that deals are for pussies. That there will be no compromises in this ideological war as if this is a war movie and it is a straight shootout between good and evil. The GOP think they are the good guys and Obama is evil. He is the Darth Vader of politics.
A filibuster is an attempt to talk a proposed bill or appointment, one that must be ratified by an elected body, out of existence. Basically, if the time limit on the debated topic expires without a vote, the motion is destroyed. This is rare in Britain and is almost impossible under New Zealand and Australian law, but in the Senate, U.S. Senators have no time limit. The only means of stopping a filibuster is to vote for cloture. Cloture brings a debate to an end, but can only be invoked if 3/5 of senators vote in favor. This means, therefore, any vote against cloture is a vote for a filibuster. The use of filibusters was relatively rare, the most notable 20th century example being Strom Thurmond’s attempt to defeat the 1957 Civil Rights Act.
Filibusted.us, a website damning the over use of filibusters while also giving legitimacy to the word ‘filibusted’ has ranked the top eight filibuster using Senators in the country. No guessing for which party they belong:
Jim DeMint, R-SC: 94%
Tom Coburn, R-OK: 89%
Jim Bunning, R-KY: 89%
Jim Inhofe, R-OK: 87%
Jess Sessions, R-AL: 87%
John Ensign, R-NV: 84%
Sam Brownback, R-KS: 84%
John Cornyn, R-TX: 82%
Percentages are for the number of bills, appointments or motions the Senator votes to filibuster.
You get the feeling that if Obama solved world hunger, brought peace to the planet and invented a cure for cancer DeMint would attempt a filibuster. This brings us to the serious side of the problem. Excessive wind-bagging by Republicans nearly destroyed the U.S. economy as well as seriously damage the worldwide money transfer market last year due to uncertainty over the dollar. The need to find 60 Senate votes for cloture meant a new fiscal package could not be agreed upon to raise the county’s debt ceiling. Since the GOP won 41 seats in the Senate and a majority in the House of Representatives, the country has been thrown into a disruptive and destructive bout of party political warfare that has harmed its attempts to not only get out of a financial hole created by Little Bush, but also to create a just and truly equal society.
What is the solution? To quote Morgan Spurlock in Supersize Me, it is time to “sue the bastards” and that is exactly what Common Cause are doing. Sick and tired of Republicans blathering on and stymieing anything and everything they can, the group filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Washington on May 15.
The reasons cited by Common Cause are long and varied. Here are a slice of the bills that have been filibusted by the GOP:
* Legislation allowing children of immigrants to become U.S. citizens if they join the U.S. armed forces or if they go to college.
* Legislation requiring political ad running non-profit groups to reveal their donor lists.
According to Ezra Klein, it is entirely possible to sue someone over the continual use of the filibuster. Emmet Bondurant believes, alongside Common Cause, that the filibuster is unconstitutional and therefore challengeable in the Supreme Court. Their case rests on historical fact as outlined by Klein.
To summarize, the framers of the constitution never intended for the filibuster to be used as a tool of anti-democracy. According to Klein and Bondurant, in 1806 a man named Aaron Burr suggested the Senate removes the Previous Question Motion  because it was hardly ever used. He argued that Senators were gentlemen and therefore knew when to shut up (think what you will about the present breed of Senator). The Previous Question Motion was a motion with a simple majority that allowed the Senate to end a debate and move on to the next subject.
What has happened, therefore, is that an assumption of good behavior on the part of Senators has been abused by a modern breed of Senator. This means that a rule was removed on the pretext of cleaning up Senate protocol because it was felt to be obsolete, but the unintended consequence was the long-term creation of the filibuster.  Bondurant will argue in court that the framers of the constitution never intended for a supermajority of 60 to be required for any vote and did not intend for there to be a filibuster option.
Also, by including the six exceptions to the majority rule the framers were excluding all other reasons for a supermajority. 67 votes are required by law to override a Presidential veto, to impeach or remove a Federal Officer from office, to ratify a treaty, to expel a member of the House or Senate, to make changes to the constitution and to extend the debt ceiling. None of the bills filibusted by the GOP require a supermajority according to the founding fathers’ ideas on majority rule as stated in Federalist No.22 by Alexander Hamilton: “To give a minority a negative upon the majority (which is always the case where more than a majority is requisite to a decision), is, in its tendency, to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser.”
In short, the Republicans are a negative on the majority, so they should either get constructive or butt out. Failing that, sue them in federal court and get America working again.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-Filibuster



3 comments:

Anonymous said...

While some of your statistics are accurate, your view and opinion is at best an aberrant and misguided editorial. You have lost sight of the big picture and are fully unaware of global realities and the nature of the World Bank's power over the US government - which you might find interesting to know that many of the internationalists who control the hidden wealth of the world who lends to governments like the US are socialists and have been dictating policy as to make the US financially subservient to them - requiring the US to cosign on every major foreign government bailout in the last 60 years. Do your research. Study to show yourself approved in what you pretend to know. Get your facts straight and you will be taken seriously, and not put on a terrorist watch list as you are now under the current patriot act. Wake up and smell the coffee! You are stuck in Alice's wonderland with the Mad Hatter as your tour guide.

Salamander 奥托 said...

Although I didn’t write this, I find it odd that you would call governments that control the wealth of the world "socialists." Who are these socialists? I would really like to know and I find it odd that anyone today would consider the US under domination of anyone, since the US is the last great empire on this Earth. -សតិវ អតុ

Salamander 奥托 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.