What is your opinion about the use of the filibuster in the Senate today?
Does it play a positive role in the lawmaking process or a negative role?
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The filibuster has become a ridiculous spectacle rather than the political tool it was no doubt meant to be. It has been reduced to sleepovers and political blackmail, so it's difficult to take the process seriously.
Sadly, the filibuster is an anachronism that has been abused more than put to good purpose. Its purpose originally was to stall passage of legislation in hopes of securing some common ground among those on either side of the matter. Unfortunately, it has all too often been used for nothing more noble than pure political motivations. The record holder for a filibuster was from my own state, South Carolina: Strom Thurmond held the entire U.S. Senate hostage for 24 hours to stall passage of the Civil Rights Act. Lately, just the threat of a filibuster has stalled judicial nominees and other appointments for no good purpose. Both Democrats and Republicans have abused it shamelessly. It is an 18th century device which does not work well in a 21st century world.
The filibuster has gone way beyond what it was originally designed for, which was a last ditch, occasional procedural move that would allow the minority to stall and possibly derail what they considered the most detrimental legislation that they absolutely couldn't live with. It wasn't meant to be a tyranny of the minority, where a large number (incredible number, actually) of both bills and judicial appointments are frozen because either the Democrats or the Republicans lost an election. Democracy is majority rule, and there are plenty of other procedural moves--committee votes, amendment votes, etc.--that the minority can use to modify proposals. I find both parties quite hypocritical on this topic, deriding the filibuster and calling for "up or down votes" when they are in the majority, and abusing it when they are not.
I am not too sure that Puerto Rico would win the award for the most corrupt legislative team in the universe, herappleness. It might have several other countries arguing that they deserve at least equal first place in that competition! However, having said that, it does seem that the filibuster, although it may have been created with good intentions, is now being used negatively to impede the progress of worthwhile legislation. I think the idea of the filibuster is attractive, but the ease with which it is being used negatively should cause us to think through the way in which it can be administered, and perhaps tightening up on this.
At the time the idea of filibuster was developed and introduced, it made sense as a means of stalling debate while those conducting the filibuster worked to convert others to their point of view. In the interests of giving the minority its rightful opportunity to make an effort at converting others to its side, legislative procedures such as the filibuster made sense.
Today, we frequently see a Congress that has polarized into two camps that are diametrically opposed to each other on almost every issue and that have no intention of even trying to find common ground. If this is truly the case, then the filibuster has become pointless - if no negotiation to find compromise is undertaken "behind the scenes" while the filibuster enforces a "holding pattern," then it is a waste of time.
My observation is, to what extent is this fair for a brand new Senator with bright, new ideas and the possibility that he or she is NOT taking MY tax dollars for a personal agenda?
Surely it is very viable to think of the filibuster as a great conduit to speed or weigh in a process, but I seriously think that the inception of a fillibuster is nothing but the perpetuation of the "big guys club"- that is, the older and more experienced the legislator is, the more likely he will use the filibuster to boost his or her legislation.
As I read the daily news from Puerto Rico, who- hands down- has THE most mediocre and corrupt legislative team in the universe (and I am from there, so I can attest to it), I can discern with more certainty how the filibuster is used, and by whom. Here in the US it is different but, it still makes me wonder, whether it is still helping to extend the life of the "old friends club" in the US Senate.
Filibuster seems like a romantic idea. We all think of Mr. Smith going to Washington. In reality, they have been used mostly for harshly partisan reasons. While in theory the filibuster promotes fairness, it often is used as a weapon to prevent progress of any kind of legislation. It has become either a joke or a travesty.
Should the filibuster be eliminated? First, it would be best to try to encourage responsible use. Legislation to do so would likely meet filibuster.
I agree with post #2 that it is primarily a negative force in the American Senate today. It seems that now senators on both sides of the aisle use the filibuster to stop any kind of legislation with which they disagree from even being brought to a vote. This is especially true in the case of presidential appointees. Witness the dearth of judicial appointments at the current time.
The filibuster is also interesting in that even when a party holds a majority, they may actually represent fewer voters than the minority (or vice-versa). For example, during the heated battlover civil rights legislation in the 20th century, senators from the minority party filibustered to stop the passage of such laws. These senators also represented less populous states, and thus fewer voters. So there is a danger of misrepresentation with the filibuster.
I would argue that the filibuster is, in concept, a good idea but that it has come to be too easy to use. This has led to it being overused in ways that are not good for our legislative process.
At one point, a Senator or group of Senators wanting to filibuster actually had to hold the floor and speak for as long as they wanted to block legislation. For this reason, the filibuster was only used in extreme circumstances. Now, filibusters can be done simply by notifying leadership of the intention to filibuster. This is excessively easy and has led to filibusters being used to hold up all sorts of legislation and presidential appointments.
The filibuster is a good idea because a truly determined minority should be able to hold up legislation. However, the minority ought to really have to work to do so. That would limit the filibuster to truly important matters. The filibuster ought not to be so easily done because its ease encourages petty obstructionism in the lawmaking process.
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