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What Is A Filibuster?

Guest Wesley Jr.

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Guest Wesley Jr.

I am really trying to figure out what a filibuster means. I think it busts bills. Can someone help. I need info for my project. Thanks alot.

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A filibuster is a process, typically an extremely long speech, that is used primarily to stall the legislative process and thus derail a particular piece of legislation, rather than to make a particular point in the content of the diversion per se. The term first came into use in the United States Senate, where senate rules permit a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose. The term comes from the early 19th century Spanish and Portuguese

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Guest Charlie Gallie

A filibuster is an attempt to keep the U. S. Senate from voting. In the movies they show it as an individual Senator talking and not allowing anyone else from having the floor --that is the right to speak. While this is a form of a filibuster, the more common type is a group of Senators refusing to allow something from coming to a vote by continuing the debate on a topic untill forced from the floor but a vote of the Senate. Over the years the number of votes it takes to sustain a filibuster has gotten less. We are now at the point that it only takes 60 votes to stop debate. The Republicans want to change that to make it only 50 votes. That would end the Senate position as the greatest deliberative body in the world and make it like the U.S. House or what we from the Senate side call the lower house.


Almost everything that happens in the Senate happens by unanimous consent. It is so routine that no one even thinks about it. For instance, in order to allow Senators do confer with each other the most common delaying tactic is to call for a quorum. A quorum is a majority of the Senators and is required for the Senate to do business. If a quorum is NOT present --and it almost never is. Then the roll will continue to be called until a quorum is present. If a quorum still is not present then the Sargent At Arms may be instructed to go an arrest Senators and compel their attendance. But from a practical point of view somewhere in this process someone moves for unanimous consent that the quorum call be suspended and the business goes on. An objection from the floor would then require a vote. And off we go.


All hell is going to break out. BUT the Democrats should begin this process NOW and not wait for the filibuster vote. Start giving the Republicans a taste of what is going to happpen and learn that the Democrats can make life very unpleasant.

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Guest Human

It would be prudent for the Democrats to stop talking about the issues endlessly, and actually come up with solutions that are based in reality.



Social Security can not keep on going in the direction that it is going. Vouchers make the public schools more competitive. Opening up the bidding process for government contracts.



Yet all that I hear from the Democrats is no, no, no. I am still hopefull that the Democrats will work together with the Republicans instead of just saying "no,no,no,no".

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Guest Tom McMahon

That debate in the Senate is already underway -- and the fringe GOP leadership kicked it off with a bang. On the Senate floor Thursday, one of the Republican leaders actually compared his Democratic colleagues to Adolf Hitler.


That's how fanatical and out of the control the Republican leadership has gotten.


They can't settle for 95 percent of the president's judicial nominees confirmed -- they need to change the rules of the Senate to pack the courts with the most extreme, unqualified nominees. They can't accept limits on their power -- they need to undo more than 200 years of tradition and turn the Senate into a rubber stamp for the most unpopular lame duck president in modern history.


In the middle of the debate this week, Democratic Leader Harry Reid stepped off the floor of the Senate to do a conference call briefing with Democrats across the country. He summed up the latest developments -- including reports of special interests threatening to withhold campaign cash from Republicans who vote their conscience and support the Democratic position.


He also told the thousands of us on the call how we can win this fight: by making personal calls to your Senators. He said that wavering Republicans in eight states particularly needed to hear from us: Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia.


You can get contact information for Senators and a full information briefing, including the audio of the conference call, on the Democratic Party web site:



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Guest Tom Fitton

Republican leaders have chastised Senate Democrats for failing to provide an up-or-down vote on President Bush’s judicial nominees. They have even gone so far as to threaten to initiate a seldom-used parliamentary maneuver to shut the filibusters down by declaring them unconstitutional – a move that would certainly prompt swift and severe retaliation from the Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has promised to “screw things up” for Republicans in Congress if they move to block the filibusters.


Yet these same Republicans, through Senate lawyers, are asking the courts to protect the use of judicial filibusters. (The Senate’s defense in Judicial Watch’s lawsuit was reportedly agreed upon by both Republican and Democrat leaders, including Senator Frist.)


Senate lawyers have argued that the courts should not address the constitutional concerns about the filibuster. Both Democrat and Republican Party leaders are actively working to protect a tactic that is not only unconstitutional, but harmful to the judicial system.


Through the abuse of the filibuster rule, a minority of liberal Senators has effectively hijacked the judicial confirmation process, requiring a supermajority of Senators (60) to confirm a judicial appointment, instead of the constitutionally-mandated simple majority of 51 Senators. (It takes 60 votes to end a filibuster and 67 votes to change Senate rules.)


In so doing, Democrats have effectively shifted the balance of powers in favor of the Senate, trampled the tradition of majority rule, and worsened an already critical judicial vacancy crisis. At the same time, they are flagrantly violating the Constitution and the will of the Founding Fathers.


How do we know the Framers of the Constitution would oppose judicial filibusters?


First, the Founding Father’s were true believers in the concept of majority governance. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “the law of the majority is the natural law of every society of men.” To allow a small minority in the Senate to bind up the judicial confirmation process is repugnant to this fundamental constitutional principle.


Secondly, the Founding Fathers were very specific as to when supermajorities are permissible. There are six such exceptions: ratification of the Constitution itself, overriding a presidential veto, Senate consent to a treaty, Senate conviction of an impeached official, the presence of a quorum in the House for the election of the President and amending the Constitution. Judicial confirmations are not among them.


Third, the power to appoint judges to the federal courts is enumerated in Article II of the Constitution, which describes the powers of the president, and not in Article I, which defines the powers of Congress.


Finally, there is senatorial precedent. This is the first time in history that the filibuster rule is being abused in this manner. Senators from both parties have abided by constitutional mandate to “advise and consent” through a simple majority up-or-down vote on judicial nominees for more than 200 years.


Of course, proponents of the judicial filibusters ignore the Constitution in favor of their own political agendas. Simply put, liberals in the Senate do not want to confirm conservative judges, even those who are eminently qualified based upon every objective standard.


Republicans have adopted a schizophrenic approach to the problem, whereby they complain about the constitutionality of judicial filibusters publicly and then oppose one real solution to the problem behind the scenes – Judicial Watch’s lawsuit against the U.S. Senate.


Some have argued that President Bush’s confirmation percentage is comparable to his predecessors. This may be true, but never before have members of the Senate resorted to extra-constitutional means to block judicial nominations. The initiation of even one single filibuster to one single nominee sets a precedent that could further complicate the confirmation process at the expense of those Americans who await justice.

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  • 5 years later...

Retiring Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) emphasized the importance of the filibuster in his last speech on the Senate floor Wednesday.


After almost four decades, I’m used to the Senate’s unpredictable rhythms. In the short time since I was sworn in last January, the Senate has seen heated debate over a basic principle under which this body functions – the filibuster. All members are frustrated with the slower pace — and they are right to be frustrated — when good bills, important bills that promise to help millions of Americans, are blocked for the wrong reasons. But rules changes should be considered in light of the fact that the Senate is not the House of Representatives. It serves a very different constitutional purpose, and the existence of the filibuster remains important to ensuring the balanced government the Framers envisioned.


Indeed, the history of the Senate is that of a struggle between compromise and intransigence. During that long struggle, certain traditions have been adhered to by members on both sides of the aisle. Whenever anyone moves to change one of those traditions, in a way that might diminish the comity on which this body must function, I believe they should do so very carefully if at all. Regardless, I continue to have faith that, out of the debates of this Senate – out of the frustrations of some and the intransigence of others – we will eventually find our way toward the next great compromises we need to solve many of our problems, compromises that will keep America great.

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  • 2 months later...
Guest American4Progress

The Filibuster That Stole Christmas


For nearly a year, Congress has discussed and publicly debated the DREAM Act, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the new START treaty -- three major Democratic priorities. The debate has occurred on television, in committees, on the Senate floor, and a variety of other forums. First introduced in 2001, the DREAM Act was considered three times this year, finally securing passage in the House last week. Proposed in 2005, DADT repeal has been considered in committee or voted on at least five times this year. First presented to the Senate in April, the New START treaty has been President Obama's major foreign policy priority for the last eight months. Now in the waning days of the lame duck session, the Senate has failed to secure passage of a single one of these items. The primary reason: the GOP's continuing patter n of obstruction . On top of leaving 38 judicial nominations pending, Senate Republicans are proffering excuse after excuse to "run out the clock" on this publicly-supported agenda all in their effort to permanently hobble Obama. And when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attempted to address Republican co ncerns about time by staying in session, Republicans conjured up a religious-based attack lambasting Democrats for using Christmas as a "bargaining chip." All this could be filed under "business as usual," if it weren't for the fact that this GOP's strategy now threatens a government shutdown. Many Republicans are now threatening to obstruct and oppose the omnibus spending bill -- despite inserting their own earmarks into the legislation -- in order to wrest control of the budget process early next year. Displaying the ultimate hypocrisy, Senate Republicans risk shutting down vital services to obstruct any measure -- including their own -- all for political control.


TIME IS UP: Intent on blocking any Democratic priority, Senate Republicans unleashed a litany of superficial excuses to prevent consideration of these particular measures. When Democrats first included DADT repeal and the DREAM Act in the defense authorization bill, Republicans like Sens. John McCain (AZ) and Sc ott Brown (MA) assailed the move as "playing politics" with troops by turning a military funding bill into "a forum for the social agenda of the liberal left." Ignoring the fact that such insertions are both common practice and were entirely germane, Republicans lodged procedural complaints and whittled away work hours while simultaneously failing to fund the military for first time in 48 years. Now, pushed to address what they sought to put off, Republicans have thrown an ironic excuse into the cogs of the lame duck session -- there's no time left. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) blocked a DADT repeal this week by r epeatedly demanding more time to consider amendments. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) believed DADT should be repealed but voted against it to wait for a "reasonable process." But Republicans rebuked Reid's reasonable offer on process, compelling an exasperated Reid to exclaim, "they say we need to wait and we need as much time as possible to debate the bill -- you can't do both." Supporters of repealing DADT say they have the 60 votes necessary to move forward on the bill. The Republican waffling over the New START treaty, however, best exemplifies the GOP's sole intent to stall. While enjoying near unanimous support from the military , public, and every living Secretary of State, the GOP's point man Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) consistently objects to the treaty's consideration because of a need for time -- since last February. Adding irony to the insult, Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and Jim DeMint (R-SC), who missed 7 of the 12 hearings on START, threatened to force the Senate clerk to read the entire treaty out loud to give Senators more time to debate -- a move that would cost the Senate an entire day. Though he eventually called off the threat, DeMint's office candidly admitted that, rather than for principle, DeMint made the threat merely as a "tool" to "slow down the process." Aware that obstructing START would "make it harder" for the Senate to repeal DADT and pass DREAM, DeMint gave the clearest articulation of GOP priorities yet: "What I'm trying to do is help run out the clock."


WAR ON PRE-CHRISTMAS: To gut this strategy of "maximum delay," Reid responded with "countermeasures of maximum work" this week by promising to "bring back the Senate after Christmas" to resolve any unfinished business. Their primary strategy threatened, Kyl and DeMint found their next excuse to stall in God -- more specifically, Christmas. Aghast that Reid would disrespect "one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians," Kyl turned resistance to the Democratic agenda into "a religious calling." DeMint answered, dubbing Reid's plans to make Sen ators vote on START or the omnibus bill before Christmas "sacrilegious." Equally offended by their "sanctimonious" indignation, Reid pointed out that "millions of working Americans," unlike senators, "don't get two weeks off on any time, let alone Christmas week." "We could work, as most Americans do, during the holidays," he added. Vice President Joe Biden, a devout Roman Catholic, put it a bit more bluntly, "There's 10 days between now and Christmas. I hope I don't get in the way of your Christmas shopping, but this is the nation's business." Angry at Reid for calling out his "whining," Kyl defended his position by insisting that while Senators have worked over the Christmas holidays before, they should not have to now because of "the needs of our constituents to see us back home." While some might find that excuse humorous, many Christian leaders found Kyl and DeMint's Christmas excuse to be "a misuse of the Christian holiday" and "patently unbiblical." "For two Senators who have steadfastly opposed this on political grounds to now use Christmas to justify their position is a cynical manipulation of religion in the worst possible way," said Sojourners' Rev. Jim Wallis.


SEASON OF SHUTDOWN: In bemoaning the Senate agreement to consider START, Kyl said "the next order of business should be to fund the government" before funding runs out this Saturday, "and then if there's time before the Christmas holiday" all the other issues can be considered. Indeed, all 42 Republicans made it clear that they would obstruct any agenda outside of the Bush tax cuts and government funding. But when the GOP finally has a $1.2 trillion omnibus bill to consider, DeMint is once again threatening to force the Senate clerk to read the 1,900 page bill on the Senate f loor -- a move that would derail the entire lame duck session and could bring about a government shutdown. Having signed up for an earmark moratorium, the GOP argument against passing their previously-touted priority is the bill's $8 billion in earmarks. Ironically, the senators lambasting the bill are the same senators who asked for the earmarks in the first place. As Reid's aide pointed out, supposed outrage over a hasty package means the GOP "must have forgotten that spending requests have been online for six months, that this bill was p ut together in bipartisan fashion, and that government-directed spending has decreased by 75 percent since Democrats took control of the Senate." But even the one-year continuing resolution that eliminates all earmarks and limits spending that the House passed last week got "a decidedly cold reception from Senate Republicans." "I am not going to vote for the omnibus, and, from what I hear about the CR, I don't think it looks very good either," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). As with START, Firedoglake's David Dayen notes that Republicans' real motivation to vote against the bill is more likely political than principled: "they want to create a situation where the government can only be funded for a short time, so that the next Congress, which is more Republi can, can get their hands on the budget earlier than October 1, 2011." This kind of posturing proves that the GOP will obstruct absolutely any initiative -- including their own legislation and their own agenda -- for power.

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