Good Riddens To The Filibuster
Yesterday the Senate evoked the so-called nuclear option, by changing the senate rules with a simple majority to force a vote on Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
This is one of those issues that have been screaming at my newspaper about, so let me take a break from talking about the financial issues of the day to tell you why I am so agitated. When I hear people wax nostalgic about the filibuster, it is kind of like hearing a movie critic extolling the virtues of the play he saw at Ford’s Theatre. Or, better yet, it is like the guy at the bar drowning his sorrows who fondly remembers the good times with his “crazy “girlfriend who was, in fact, crazy.
The simple truth is that the filibuster is an antiquated vestige of a bygone era that increases voter disenchantment with the legislative process by imposing a super majority requirement on the passage of bills no matter how important they may be. Yesterday’s rule change only applied to Supreme Court nominations but it is only a matter of time before the senate moves to limit the filibuster’s use in stalling l legislation. For me the change can’t come soon enough.
Today’s filibuster isn’t Jimmy Stewart’s filibuster which required a dedicated group of legislators to publicly refuse to yield the senate floor so long as they could stand up and keep talking.
By the mid 1970’s a senator didn’t have to be physically present to vote to continue a filibuster and senate procedures introduced a dual track. Under this approach, the senate can move on to other legislation while the filibustered legislation remains frozen.
All this means is that the modern day filibuster is no longer about a determined minority willing to take a stand against legislation it doesn’t like; rather it is a de facto requirement for a 60 vote super majority to pass legislation.
This isn’t a recipe for thoughtful deliberation but an invitation to obstruct on a grand scale. It’s what keeps a simple majority from voting to restructure the CFPB or reconsider the Durbin Amendment.
For those of you, such as the Association’s Vice President of Governmental Affairs, who insist that the filibuster ensures that the legitimate points of the minority party can’t simply be ignored. I say this has more to do with changing political realities than with any procedural safeguards.
The filibuster has never been what made the senate a collegial body. Just a generation ago, you had liberal northeast republicans who worked with southern democrats and conservative Dems who worked with republicans. Today such bi-partisanship is an invitation to be primary.
I am glad I got that off my chest, thanks for listening.
Have a great weekend.