Don’t Kill Filibuster, Make Them Talk

Dave Johnson

The current filibuster rules are being used to thwart the will of We the People. Republicans have abused it to obstruct everything — and I do mean everything. The solution is to change the rules and make them talk, not kill the filibuster entirely.

Obstructing The People’s Will

Republicans have combined the filibuster rules in the Senate with the “Hastert Rule” in the House to prevent anything that the people want to happen from coming to a vote. This is important to understand. Bill after bill that would pass is kept from coming to the floor of the House for a vote. Bill after bill and nominee after nominee that the Senate majority would approve are kept from being voted on. Again: these are kept from being voted on in the House and Senate because they would pass.

The public hates obstruction but does not understand that obstruction is what is occurring. The corporate media provides cover, telling the public it “takes 60 votes to pass” things in the Senate. And the public doesn’t even learn that things that would pass are kept from being voted on in the House.

Scrap The Filibuster?

Harold Meyerson today, in A good case against the filibuster, says scrap it,

The right to filibuster is not mentioned in the Constitution or in any law. It is a creation of the Senate’s rules and one that has been used to thwart the very essence of democracy — majority rule. By contrast, the right of presidents to appoint judges and the Senate to confirm them are laid out in Articles I and II of the Constitution, which Republicans profess to revere.

Meyerson says it’s time to “scrap the filibuster.” But that might not be the best solution. After all, there are reasons to preserve the filibuster. I think the answer is to return to the “make them talk” variety of filibuster. In other words, if they feel they have a good reason to filibuster, let them, but make them actually filibuster — make them talk.

Make Them Talk

Sometimes the majority can be stampeded into doing the wrong thing and the minority needs a way to slow things down long enough to rally the public. And if by slowing things down they are able to rally enough of the public to their side, they can avert the majority from doing something the public might later regret.

So the filibuster is sometimes — sometimes — necessary and should be preserved. The minority needs a way to slow things down and rally the public on those rare occasions when the majority has lost its head.

This is why the filibuster should not be scrapped. But it also should not be used to obstruct, as is currently the case. Fortunately there is a way to preserve it without letting it be used to obstruct everything.

The public thinks that filibusters are major, rare dramatic events that involve Senators standing up and talking all night. When this happens it is big news (even when it isn’t a real filibuster at all.) The media reports it, and the public gets interested. The public can then weigh in, for or against the arguments of the filibustering senators.

This is an effective tactic because it is so dramatic. And this is what the filibuster should be. This use of the filibuster reinforces democracy.

Don’t scrap the filibuster, scrap the “silent” filibuster that lets Republicans get away with obstructing everything without the public understanding this is what they are doing. Make them talk.

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