The Dying Filibuster May Be the Only Uniting Issue in Congress

The Dying Filibuster May Be the Only Uniting Issue in Congress

Filibuster is not the thing of the past

Get ’em while you can. The ol’ timey filibuster — long the weapon of the politician who loves the sound of their own voice — is going the way of the dodo. Sorry, wait, I meant DADT.

Yes, the method of filibustering is being dismantled. The GOP has most certainly been abusing their filibustering power since Obama took office. Over the entire history of presidents, 86 cases of presidential nominees were found. In just five years, 82 presidential nominees have been blocked under President Obama.

Mitch McConnell has said that he does not like this new ruling one bit, as if he were petulant and spoiled Victorian child in a Dickens novel. On June 18, McConnell said in a speech on the floor: “There is not a doubt in my mind that if the majority breaks the rules of the Senate to change the rules of the Senate with regard to nominations, the next majority will do it for everything. I wouldn’t be able to argue, a year and a half from now if I were the majority leader, to my colleagues that we shouldn’t enact our legislative agenda with a simple 51 votes, having seen what the previous majority just did. I mean there would be no rational basis for that.” Mitch McConnell also has no dick*.

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Three Democratic Senators did not approve of Reid’s decision, however. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark, said that it could “permanently damage” the Senate, adding, “This institution was designed to protect — not stamp out — the voices of the minority.”

The “nuclear option” refers to legislature that usually takes 67 votes, but thanks to Reid using a, as Fox News puts it, “highly controversial shortcut,” it now only takes just 51 votes.

Retiring Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, wrote a lengthy essay on just why the legislation is a bad idea.

“Changing the rules, in violation of the rules, by a simple majority vote is not a one-time action. If a Senate majority demonstrates it can make such a change once, there are no rules that bind a majority, and all future majorities will feel free to exercise the same power, not just on judges and executive appointments but on legislation … Today, we once again are moving down a destructive path … Pursuing the nuclear option in this manner removes an important check on majority overreach, which is central to our system of government.”

“Changing the rules, in violation of the rules, by a simple majority vote is not a one-time action. If a Senate majority demonstrates it can make such a change once, there are no rules that bind a majority, and all future majorities will feel free to exercise the same power, not just on judges and executive appointments but on legislation … Today, we once again are moving down a destructive path … Pursuing the nuclear option in this manner removes an important check on majority overreach, which is central to our system of government.”

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It is largely assumed that the move to dismantle the filibuster will effectively work this time around for Reid’s purposes, but it doesn’t stop a Republican-controlled Senate in the future exercising the same political right. It escalates the stakes higher and higher — now we are looking at a genuinely nuclear option, that if one party doesn’t like it, they can have their way, no questions (really) asked. Is having the final word as powerful as having a meaningful discussion? Until this current political climate in Washington finally dies down, we may simply never know the answer to that question.

* This is factually unverified, but widely speculated. 

© MICHAEL REYNOLDS/epa/Corbis ]

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