Future of the Filibuster?

Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonThere were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s combined.1 The filibuster rule, Senate Rule XXII, was designed to defend minority rights or inspire debate of issues, but instead the minority party uses it to require a 60-vote supermajority to block legislative initiatives from getting accomplished in the United States Senate.

No Jimmy Stewart?

Despite the heroic efforts portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, perhaps one of the most famous representations of a filibuster,  it has become a rule to impede getting things done in Washington, something that the American public clearly derided in  the 2012 elections.

Recently, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described socialist who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, used the filibuster2 (or a facsimile thereof) to rail against President Obama’s tentative tax cut deal with Republicans. Unfortunately, Senator Sanders didn’t use the filibuster/”very long speech” very effectively since he was not delaying any Senate debate, no other senators wished to speak and… wait for it… The Senate wasn’t scheduled to take up Mr. Obama’s plan for a vote until the following Monday!

From Senate Leaders to Newcomers: Enough is Enough!

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a committed guardian of institutional prerogatives (who has previously prohibited filibuster reform in Congress), has given up protecting the practice. “We can’t go on like this anymore,” he told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz. “I don’t want to get rid of the filibuster, but I have to tell you, I want to change the rules and make the filibuster meaningful.”

Newcomers from Chris Murphy (the incoming Democratic senator from Connecticut) to Angus King (the independent senator-elect from Maine) have spoken out against the filibuster.

To prevent government from happening?

Wikipedia: ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filibuster_in_the_United_States_Senate)) “A filibuster in the United States Senate usually refers to any dilatory3 or obstructive tactics used to prevent a measure from being brought to a vote. The most common form of filibuster occurs when a senator attempts to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a bill by extending the debate on the measure, but other dilatory tactics exist. The rules permit a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless “three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn” brings debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXII.”

In the Public Eye!

On Nov 4th, CBS’ 60 Minutes4 interviewed both the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) and the Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on the current Senate gridlock and discussed filibustering as a tactic.  If Morley Safer knocks on your door, you can pretty much guarantee that it will be a bad day. And that may be true for the filibuster.

All winning political campaigns focus on getting results in Washington, D.C.  For at least the last decade, filibustering has been all about preventing progress.  During the 2012 election the American people have spoken and clearly signaled their tolerance of the filibuster is waning.

Is It Time To Go Nuclear?

On November 26, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) met on the Senate floor for the first of likely many more colossal debates on changing Senate rules and the filibuster.  Reid may seek to change the filibuster rules through a controversial constitutional option (known as the nuclear option) for changing the Senate’s rules through a simple majority vote. In January at the beginning of the 113th Congress, Reid could ask the Senate to adopt new rules for the filibuster without asking for unanimous consent. With Vice President Biden presiding in the Senate, he can rule favorably on Reid’s motion and it would then be sustained by a simple majority vote.

McConnell fiercely rejects Reid’s intentions to change the filibuster rules and believes the two should work in a bipartisan fashion to construct rules to change the filibuster in a way that can proceed through regular order, obtaining 67 votes in the Senate.


Cansler Consulting is a certified lobbying practice that is experienced in the multi-faceted and inter-related industries of Agriculture, Food and Drug Safety, Immigration, Transportation & Infrastructure, International Trade and Energy. Through our congressional and regulatory relationships established for over two decades we can help you influence the policy makers on Capitol Hill and navigate the federal budgeting process. You can contact us at info@canslerconsulting.com or at (202) 220-3150.

Tim Cansler
  1. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-07/could-this-be-end-of-evil-filibuster-.html []
  2. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20025382-503544.html []
  3. to postpone or delay []
  4. http://www.cbs.com/shows/60_minutes/ []
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