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Fighting the Filibuster

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    A filibuster is a type of parliamentary procedure where an individual extends debate, allowing a lone member to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a given proposal. It is sometimes referred to as talking out a bill, and characterized as a form of obstruction in a legislature or other decision-making body.

    Okay, thought it fair to give the exact (wiki) definition. Now, to why it's relevant. Currently, the democrats are of the mindset that filibustering is stopping the majority voice in the Senate from passing legislation, by being held up by a minority group of Republicans. Democrats want to change the way the government is allowed to filibuster. Republicans are of the mindset that filibustering is a good thing because it makes it difficult to pass laws, thus making government simultaneously less effective and less spend happy.

    Come early January of 2013, the first day of the new senate, there's a special rule that you don't need a supermajority (60 votes) to pass legislation. You only need a simple majority (51 votes.) On this day, they plan to change the filibuster legislation to make it harder to do so, and easier to overturn with less votes in the future (being 51 instead of 60 going forward to silence the filibuster). There is tons of irony here I think. :)

    Filibustering used to be a rare act, implemented on average only 1-3 times a year. During Obama's first year in office however, the Republican base filibustered 137 times. It was ridiculous. And, at the same time, pretty amazing anything got accomplished at all. So, where do you stand on changing this procedure? I think the ability to filibuster is important. But, the way that its used should be changed now that people are just straight up abusing the power to hold everything to an endless standstill.
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    You're exactly correct.

    The filibuster needs to be either eliminated, or at least modified. Interestingly, doing either only requires a simple majority, not 60 votes, so it's long past time to fix the problem.

    (It’s unlikely that any Republican senator will support getting rid of the filibuster today, even knowing that it would make legislating easier for them in the future, but because the filibuster is a Senate-created rule, that can be accomplished by a simple majority vote.)

    The filibuster is a redundancy in a system that already includes multiple veto points and counter-majoritarian tools, including a bicameral legislature, a Supreme Court and a presidential veto. The Senate itself protects minorities in its very design, which gives small states the same representation as large ones.

    The filibuster doesn’t only fail to ensure extended debate on a bill; today it curtails the opportunity for any debate at all. A single senator can signal he or she intends to filibuster by typing an email and hitting send. No need to stand on the Senate floor to make your impassioned case.

    The Supreme Court should be blocking these measures and protecting the right to vote, but far too often under Chief Justice John Roberts, it’s done the opposite. In 2019 it refused to stop even the worst partisan gerrymanders, and in 2013 it struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, opening the door to a wave of Republican voter-suppression laws that continues to crash. That’s why federal law is the only solution.

    There have also already been many revisions to the filibuster. In the 1970s, Congress created a loophole for spending and revenue bills to avoid the filibuster, allowing such legislation to pass with a simple majority — a process known as reconciliation. More recently, in 2013, Democrats eliminated the filibuster for nominations of lower-court federal judges and executive-branch officials. Four years later, Republicans eliminated it for Supreme Court justices, which allowed President Donald Trump to fill one-third of the high court’s bench with his picks.

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    "Where there's a will, there's a way".

    Although the filibuster is seemingly a tough obstacle, the Boston Globe published an article a couple of day ago that explains that there are some creative ways to get what you want in the senate.

    Approval of the $1.9 trillion economic recovery package, which delivered billions in stimulus payments and takes a big bite out of child poverty, was a major achievement.

    But the left is increasingly concerned that climate change, gun control, immigration, and voting rights legislation will go nowhere in the Senate, where the filibuster effectively requires a 60-vote majority to get most substantive bills passed.

    The signal victory of the early Biden era — passage of the economic rescue package — came by way of a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation that allows senators to approve budget-related legislation with a simple majority.

    Weeks after House Democrats sent their plea to Schumer, word leaked out that the majority leader was weighing reconciliation as a vehicle for the sort of sweeping immigration reform that has eluded Congress for decades.

    Lawmakers are also discussing a reconciliation-friendly tax-and-credit scheme that would force a dramatic increase in the production of clean energy — and take the country a long way toward meeting its obligations under the Paris climate accord.

    And with a little creativity, one can imagine similar legislation in the realms of election reform and gun control.

    If a system of financial rewards and penalties could work to curb greenhouse gas emissions, why stop there? What about a carrot-and-stick regime designed to, say, ratchet down the production of assault weapons?

    "I spoke with Adam Skaggs, chief counsel and policy director for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the group founded by former Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot a decade ago."

    He says the gun control movement, like so many others, is taking a hard look at the reconciliation process.

    “Clearly, there are limits to what can be done,” he says. But Democrats haven’t even come close to comprehensively testing them, he says. “So I think, in light of the obstruction on this issue, and frankly so many others, by the Republican minority and the Republican leadership, it’s time to start testing those boundaries in a much more strategic, comprehensive, robust manner.”

    Skaggs points out that Congress once withheld highway funds from states that refused to raise the drinking age to 21. He said he could imagine a similar effort on guns. Lawmakers could leverage, say, federal funding for local law enforcement to push states into raising the age for assault weapon purchases or requiring background checks for private gun sales.

    The most successful gun control regime in the nation’s history, arguably, is one that tightly regulates machine guns and short-barreled rifles and shotguns and imposes a $200 tax on transfers of the weapons.

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    There was a time in the U.S. Senate where the filibuster was a "standing filibuster", which is why Strom Thurmond spoke for nearly 24 hours in 1957.

    The Senate tradition of unlimited debate has allowed for the use of the filibuster, a loosely defined term for action designed to prolong debate and delay or prevent a vote on a bill, resolution, amendment, or other debatable question. Prior to 1917 the Senate rules did not provide for a way to end debate and force a vote on a measure. That year, the Senate adopted a rule to allow a two-thirds majority to end a filibuster, a procedure known as "cloture." In 1975 the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds of senators voting to three-fifths of all senators duly chosen and sworn, or 60 of the 100-member Senate.

    A number of laws have been passed to limit the application of the filibuster rules by explicitly limiting the time for Senate debate, notably the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 that created the budget reconciliation process. Changes to Rule XXII in 2013 and 2017 now require only a simple majority to invoke cloture on presidential nominations, although most legislation still requires 60 votes.

    The "nuclear option" has been used on two occasions to override the 60 vote threshold for certain matters before the Senate. The nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the Senate to override one of its standing rules, including the 60-vote rule to close debate, by a simple majority (51+ votes or 50 votes with the Vice President casting the tie-breaking vote), rather than the two-thirds supermajority normally required to amend Senate rules.

    If the U.S. Senate reverted back to the "standing" rule used by the Texas legislature, you would have a lot fewer filibusters.

    A Democratic Texas state senator ended a 15-hour filibuster Thursday morning of a controversial Republican-backed voting bill, which then passed just minutes after she wearily left the floor.

    Democrat Carol Alvarado began speaking shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday even though she acknowledged that the filibuster would not block the sweeping legislation. She was required to remain standing and speaking, was prohibited from taking bathroom breaks and wore running shoes on the Senate floor, just as former Texas legislator Wendy Davis did in 2013 when she filibustered a sweeping anti-abortion bill.

    “What’s wrong with drive-thru voting during a pandemic? What’s wrong with 24-hour voting? Why can’t we have expanded voting hours for the people who have to work late? Where is all the so-called fraud?” Alvarado said in the closing moments of her filibuster. “Where does it end?

    She hugged her Democratic colleagues after finally putting down the microphone. Minutes later, the bill passed 18-11 in the Senate, although the measure is now once again stalled since Democratic lawmakers continue to stay away from the state House of Representatives in a standoff that has now entered a 32nd day.