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View Diary: Abolish the Filibuster? Be Honest (74 comments)

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  •  It's not like in the movies. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stevej, Scarce, zephron, millwood, flhiii88

    As David Waldman has explained repeatedly, the filibuster will entail a "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" moment. Mostly, you will just have an empty chamber placed into continuous quorum call.

    What you will see on TV will not be Jimmy Stewart, but an empty chamber.

    Secondly, and more importantly, in this country we have elections to sort out problems. Majority rule should mean just that. If the Republicans regain the majority, they should get to have votes on whatever they want. If the people don't like what they do, they will throw them out.

    The filibuster is not the last resort for errant politicians. The voters are.

    "I'm not a gentle, man. I'm a Method Man!" The What @tweetbbb

    by brooklynbadboy on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 11:30:06 AM PDT

    •  The Senate by its very nature is undemocratic. (0+ / 0-)

      So, arguing that "elections" are how we get stuff done strikes me as a little incongruous with the Senate at large.

      It could also be argued that if the people really want something they can vote in a sufficiently large super-majority.  The logic is essentially identical, only it changes the balance for moving forward.

      Finally, how about a rule change that doesn't eliminate the filibuster in toto, but rather just adjusts the rules preventing parties from escaping responsibility for filibustering.  After all, if the People are behind you, shouldn't you want them to know what you've done?  Call it the "Senate Transparency Rule".

      That said, the optics of an empty chamber would be damning as well.  Could you imagine if we had somebody (obviously not Reid) on camera saying

      "We want to get stuff done, but a minority is preventing that.  Until we get an up-or-down vote on XYZ we aren't going to move on.  If they want to talk about it, let them talk.  But then let us vote."

       I don't think it would matter if there was a Mr. Smith style filibuster then.

      Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

      by zephron on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 02:49:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  How so? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        brooklynbadboy

        What nature is it that we're saying is undemocratic about the Senate?

        I think people like to say that because of the filibuster, but I think that conflates the issue. It's undemocratic because of the filibuster, and the filibuster remains because of... the filibuster.

        It's often said that it was the intention of the founders that the Senate not be democratic in nature, but that doesn't really appear to be true, either. The filibuster wasn't an original practice, and there's certainly nothing either in the rules or the constitution that requires anything more than a supermajority for adopting procedural rules.

        So what is it, exactly, about the nature of the Senate that makes us say it's undemocratic?

        •  Small vs. Large states. (0+ / 0-)

          I suppose it depends upon how we choose to define "undemocratic".  I meant in regard to the population at large, not in regard to the number of Senators.

          That is, if we got rid of the filibuster then Rhode Island and California would have the opportunity to vote without being blocked by Wyoming, which I guess is more democratic.  But we would still have California having the same number of votes as Wyoming.

          But that's the idea.  The Senate was designed to be inherently undemocratic.  Because of that, it will always be possible for a minority of citizens to block legislation by controlling a majority of Senators.  So when we argue about the "undemocratic" nature of the filibuster, we are really arguing about just how undemocratic the Senate should be.

          Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

          by zephron on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 04:12:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  OK (0+ / 0-)

            I don't think that's particularly undemocratic, though.

            The Senate, as comprised by its membership, votes on issues, and the majority wins the day.

            That's democratic.

            What's undemocratic is saying that the majority doesn't win the day.

            The House isn't "democratic" by the population definition, either, since the constituencies are never really of exactly the same size, and small states still get represented even when their total population wouldn't otherwise warrant it.

            •  Like I said, (0+ / 0-)

              it depends upon which constituency you use to define "democratic".  I think we would all agree that the natural constituency to use would be the citizenry.

              And you are, of course, exactly right that the House isn't "democratic" either, but I think we agree that it is much more "democratic" than the Senate.

              Again, it's all about how undemocratic we want those institutions to be.

              Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

              by zephron on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:01:51 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well... (0+ / 0-)

                since the issue is the rules of the Senate, I don't think the citizenry makes any particular sense as the natural constituency.

                They can be as "undemocratic" as they like with regards to the size of their constituency. That particular measure of "undemocratic-ness" was obviously part of the design.

                The part we're talking about, though, wasn't.

                •  Well, let's put it this way, (0+ / 0-)

                  what is the natural definition of "democratic" and why should we strive towards institutions which embody it?

                  That is, why, aside from the fact that it is stymieing Democratic initiatives, should we consider eliminating the filibuster?  If that is the sole reason, purely politics, then that's fine as far as it goes, but appeals to "democracy" as some inherent good ring hollow.

                  Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

                  by zephron on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:30:56 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  No, let's put it THIS way: (0+ / 0-)

                    Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings

                    --Art. I, Sec. 5.

                    If you can show me the supermajority requirement in that, you've got a case.

                    •  What case have I tried to make? (0+ / 0-)

                      You are, of course, absolutely correct.  And the Senate, should it choose, could require unanimous consent on all bills.  Just as it could assign fractional votes based upon population (which would arguably be most democratic).

                      BUT, once it makes the rules, it is then bound to follow them.  And, in fact, isn't Art. I, Sec. 5. then constraining?  There is no external appeal; once the rules are made, thems are the rules.  So, since the filibuster is part of the "rules", it has the full force of the Constitution presently behind it, until such time as the Senate can change the rules according to the rules.  And since those rules give the Senate parliamentarian some power, it is possible to do this in a controversial and overtly political manner.

                      Now, the question is, since you've established that it is permissible, what should they be changed to?  Wouldn't allowing filibusters but limiting the filibustering parties ability to pretend that they aren't filibustering be a politically more astute move?  Then it's all about "transparency" and "honesty" and "Mr. Smith" and not about "Democrats Grab Power!".  Of course, that won't stop many from saying the latter, but the former also has the virtue that virtuous filibusters (i.e., ours) can still be made.

                      Justice deferred is justice denied. -MLK

                      by zephron on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 08:12:48 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  No power in the parliamentarian. (0+ / 0-)

                        That's just wrong.

                        Nor is it even really true that anyone's bound to follow the rules, precisely because there is no external appeal.

                        But no, the question hasn't changed here at all. It's still "So what is it, exactly, about the nature of the Senate that makes us say it's undemocratic?"

                        A majority can set the rules. A majority can change the rules. A majority can even decide to ignore the rules. We still haven't had an answer about what's undemocratic about that. So there's no point in moving on to the question of what the rules should be changed to, since we haven't answered the first one.

                        That was the case you were trying to make. That the Senate was undemocratic.

                        So far, we have the bit about the constituencies being divided up by states and not population. But since the topic is the rules, we're still searching for what it is about those rules that's "by its very nature... undemocratic."

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