Column: Filibuster reform is desperately needed
Filibuster use in the Senate gets uglier and uglier, and it must be stopped.
Feb. 19, 2013
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
In 1806, Vice President Aaron Burr suggested the Senate adopt a provision that allowed the majority to end debate on a bill. Thus, an individual became able to stall legislation. The filibuster was born.
Some of the notable filibusters in history have been given by former senators Huey Long (D-La.) and Strom Thurmond (D-S.C.) Long stalled the Senate for 15 hours by giving recipes and reciting sections of the Constitution in 1935. Thurmond still holds the record for giving a speech for just over 24 hours to block a civil rights bill in 1957.
Democrats have been forced to invoke cloture a whopping 400 times since 2007. Currently, senators can perform a "silent" filibuster, which allows them to take the floor and then leave.
A new idea being discussed in the Senate will end this mockery and force senators to give the filibuster in person while standing on the floor. This will take away serious time from a senator’s schedule and show voters how obtuse their obstruction truly is.
This is going to be an uphill battle for Democrats, seeing as the filibuster is the Republican Party's greatest weapon. This bill can also alienate some of the older Democrats who remember being the minority themselves. Once this rule is in place, it will stick when the Democrats inevitably return to the minority.
The passing of this bill could do one of two things: alienate the right even more or finally show some bipartisan leadership taking place. If the bill goes through the Senate by force with the Democrats having the 51-vote majority needed, the Republicans are sure to make the next few years hell. You can count on any bills that require a reach across the aisle to be cast aside. However, if both parties can come to an agreement, the American people might actually start to see a Senate in which we can trust.
Over the past year or so, I have become so fed up with the Senate that gets nothing done. It seems as if they care less about the American people and more about who can thwart whom first. The Senate became a true laughingstock during last December’s debt ceiling negotiations, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) actually filibustered his own bill.
It is like everyone in the Senate has become that one kid in every class that has to be right and has to correct the teacher. We all know who that kid is and we all kind of grow to hate them. Now, I propose to you: think of an entire classroom of these students that have to work on a group project - it just is not going to work.
The American Senate used to be something of legend and prestige. No matter your political affiliation, you respected all of the politicians. It seems now the Senate is just a camera crew away from becoming “Jersey Shore.” It is an all-out turf war with every bill, and until the American people can send the Senate a message that we will not stand for this anymore, we will only see it get worse.
I ask you to just take a few minutes this week and remember and appreciate those great minds who once used to move an entire people to their feet with just a few quips. These were masters of rhetoric who were okay to walk in the shoes of another person. Remember that multiple political beliefs wrote the Constitution, and now two parties cannot decide on simple definitions and rules.
This new filibuster bill, like many bills in Congress, has the ability to change all of our day-to-day lives. Even though many believe Congress has lost touch with so much of the population, they are still the ones making the laws that will change our future. When the Senate can regulate how to properly filibuster and again reclaim its past glory, we will not only see a change in Congress itself, but we will see a change in the American people.