There is likely to be a great deal of talk about the filibuster in the coming weeks. The folks over at big government have laid out some myths and facts about the filibuster that is worth your time to read. As with all things, your best bet is to inform yourself. The one thing that gets proven to us over and over again is that the old saying about how to tell when a politician is lying is as true today as ever (For those who don’t know the punchline, it is when their lips are moving.)
The filibuster has been used by all stripes of politicians. However, it is used by minority view representatives to effect bills and legislation they disagree with. Efforts to limit the filibuster have historically been by those who want to silence opposition. Here are a few instances when the filibuster was used or when some forces attempted to limit it:
Efforts to limit the filibuster have included a two thirds cloture vote to end the filibuster. Another tactic that was introduced in the early 1970’s was the “two-track system” where the senate can have two or more pieces of legislation pending on the floor and simply designate certain times of the day for each matter. This required the agreement of the majority leader with unanimous consent or the agreement of the minority leader.
In 1975, the Democrat controlled Senate revised the cloture rule so that three-fifths (remember, old cloture was two thirds or 66 Senators) of the sworn Senators (usually 60) could limit debate.The only exception is when Senate rules are being voted on – where the two-thirds requirement for cloture remains in effect.
Now I love “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”. I would suspect that most folks learned what they know about the filibuster from that movie. However, the reality is quite different. Most people are not aware of cloture – either the older style two-thirds or the more modern three-fifths variety that allows the filibuster to be stopped by the members of the Senate. Once cloture is achieved, further debate is limited to 30 more hours.
While all of this is very interesting and you can learn a great deal about the filibuster from wikipedia, I cannot help but think that there are far more pressing issues that the Senate should take on first. For every minute the media wastes on this topic, take a minute to ponder what important issues are not being covered and seek them out for yourself.