Preserve the Filibuster: Protect the People from Political Parties


Gregory Kogor writes at the Ripon Society:

“Should Senate Republicans abolish the filibuster?  The filibuster is not specifically established by the U.S. Constitution.  Then again, neither are political parties.  Indeed, one could argue that the filibuster has persisted because it helps Congress fulfill its constitutional obligations by restraining the mischiefs of political parties.

“If we want to understand filibusters, it helps to start with a clear definition. Filibustering is delay, or the threat of delay, in a legislative chamber to prevent a final outcome for strategic gain. Although the current focus is on the U.S. Senate, filibustering is a general phenomenon. While collecting data on filibusters in the modern Senate, I found references to filibustering in 20 state legislatures, 19 foreign countries, and the United Nations.

“There are many ways to kill time. We might associate Senate filibustering with long speeches, but this is because pro-segregation southern senators opposed to civil rights bills during the mid-20th century favored germane speeches as the most legitimate form of obstruction. However, legislators can also delay by calling for unnecessary roll call votes, such as motions to adjourn for the day.  Another classic technique is refusing to cast a vote in the hopes of ‘breaking’ a quorum so that there are not enough legislators participating to make legitimate decisions. This technique is known as a ‘disappearing quorum’….”


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Topics: Legislative Procedure
Tags: Gregory Koger