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Why are Filibusters good?

Bannanawamajama
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7/18/2013 11:35:09 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
This isn't a I don't like Republicans thing, I thought it was just as strange and nonsensical when that Wendy Davis person did it in Texas.

Im wondering why everyone seems to agree that Filibusters are a great thing in democracy? If a majority has the votes it needs to push something through, they should be able to make a law proceed right? Why do you need 2/3 approximately to do anything beyond ammending the constitution?

Now theres some concerns about minority party getting shut out of democracy and such but if a topic is really controversial and needs more debate, you should be able to convince 4-5 people from the other party not to vote for it right? It seems strange to me that the political system makes it so easy to filibuster, that if they wanted to a person could literally block anything that doesn't have overwhelming support without any effort, but no one seems to mind?

Also, why is this only a Senate thing? The House of representitives seems just as hectic and uncooperative with itself as the Upper Chamber, did the Founding Fathers just assume the House would be reasonable enough to not need it or something?
DetectableNinja
Posts: 6,043
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7/18/2013 11:49:28 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/18/2013 11:35:09 PM, Bannanawamajama wrote:
This isn't a I don't like Republicans thing, I thought it was just as strange and nonsensical when that Wendy Davis person did it in Texas.

Im wondering why everyone seems to agree that Filibusters are a great thing in democracy? If a majority has the votes it needs to push something through, they should be able to make a law proceed right? Why do you need 2/3 approximately to do anything beyond ammending the constitution?

To keep a simple majority from simply taking the reins and saying "fvck off" to the minority on important matters.

Now theres some concerns about minority party getting shut out of democracy and such but if a topic is really controversial and needs more debate, you should be able to convince 4-5 people from the other party not to vote for it right?

You do realize that in many systems, not only do people naturally have an affinity to strictly vote with the party, but there are systems in place to strictly enforce party discipline? This is especially clear in places like the UK.

It seems strange to me that the political system makes it so easy to filibuster, that if they wanted to a person could literally block anything that doesn't have overwhelming support without any effort, but no one seems to mind?

A true filibuster actually requires a LOT of effort. With a true filibuster, the person filibustering has to keep the floor for an EXTREMELY long time constantly. Due to this, all real filibusters end eventually. The filibusters that everyone gets up in arms about (the ones in the US Senate) aren't actual filibusters. They're merely the threat to filibuster without the actual act, standing up and talking indefinitely.

And, again, no filibuster can truly, indefinitely block something from passage, as it requires a legislator to literally hold the floor indefinitely.

Also, why is this only a Senate thing? The House of representitives seems just as hectic and uncooperative with itself as the Upper Chamber, did the Founding Fathers just assume the House would be reasonable enough to not need it or something?

I couldn't say. But simply put, the House I guess decided filibusters would be inappropriate for whatever reason when it made its rules. Although, the sheer number of Rrepresentatives could be a factor: whereas the theory goes that all Senators could know and do business with each other, there are 435 Representatives, meaning that it could be inappropriate for a random Representative who wouldn't/couldn't otherwise work out their issue with everyone to take command of the floor.
Think'st thou heaven is such a glorious thing?
I tell thee, 'tis not half so fair as thou
Or any man that breathes on earth.

- Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
Khaos_Mage
Posts: 23,214
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7/19/2013 2:31:50 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/18/2013 11:35:09 PM, Bannanawamajama wrote:
Also, why is this only a Senate thing? The House of representitives seems just as hectic and uncooperative with itself as the Upper Chamber, did the Founding Fathers just assume the House would be reasonable enough to not need it or something?

I would wager it has something to do with the "equality" of the Senate, as opposed to the "populace" of the House.
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Stephen_Hawkins
Posts: 5,316
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7/19/2013 7:49:15 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/18/2013 11:49:28 PM, DetectableNinja wrote:
At 7/18/2013 11:35:09 PM, Bannanawamajama wrote:
This isn't a I don't like Republicans thing, I thought it was just as strange and nonsensical when that Wendy Davis person did it in Texas.

Im wondering why everyone seems to agree that Filibusters are a great thing in democracy? If a majority has the votes it needs to push something through, they should be able to make a law proceed right? Why do you need 2/3 approximately to do anything beyond ammending the constitution?

To keep a simple majority from simply taking the reins and saying "fvck off" to the minority on important matters.

Nice in principle, but what this essentially says is "If the minority disagree with the majority, then the minority can overrule the majority". And this is on issues which they ought not be able to do this: public policy.

We have a bicameral system, federalism, devolution of powers, separation of branches of government, democracy, referenda, elections, fixed terms, maximum number of terms, plebiscites, constitutions, etc. etc. etc. etc. as all methods of protecting the minority, ignoring education and culture which are the greatest bastions of civil liberties. The filibuster is a possible way of protecting liberties, as the above, but the point is in practice it is being abused.

Oh and regarding collective responsibility in the UK, it is probably the greatest thing that can be brought about. It's the concession to reality that most people are elected by party, and therefore the elected ought to follow the party, which is what grants them legitimacy. I'm irritated more that if you're kicked out of a party there is not an automatic by-election.

The best reason for filibusters being allowed is practicality. To say "You're done speaking" on an issue which is being debated to be put into legislation, as long as it is relevant (which is the rule on filibusters already), is a gross injustice on discourse. That said, to legislate on filibusters in any way (for example, that you need to declare it is completely maniacal to me) seems in all forms unreasonable, just like legislating on the use of the letter "X". Filibusters can be abused, but no more than making sure no-one speaks to force a bill through if the parliament is empty (which has a name, but I forgot it :S), or to an extent just speaking generally on an issue.
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TN05
Posts: 4,492
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7/19/2013 9:37:07 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/18/2013 11:35:09 PM, Bannanawamajama wrote:
This isn't a I don't like Republicans thing, I thought it was just as strange and nonsensical when that Wendy Davis person did it in Texas.

Im wondering why everyone seems to agree that Filibusters are a great thing in democracy? If a majority has the votes it needs to push something through, they should be able to make a law proceed right? Why do you need 2/3 approximately to do anything beyond ammending the constitution?

Now theres some concerns about minority party getting shut out of democracy and such but if a topic is really controversial and needs more debate, you should be able to convince 4-5 people from the other party not to vote for it right? It seems strange to me that the political system makes it so easy to filibuster, that if they wanted to a person could literally block anything that doesn't have overwhelming support without any effort, but no one seems to mind?

Also, why is this only a Senate thing? The House of representitives seems just as hectic and uncooperative with itself as the Upper Chamber, did the Founding Fathers just assume the House would be reasonable enough to not need it or something?

There are several reasons. We are a republic, not a democracy, and the filibuster is in place to ensure the minority has the right to at least temporarily prevent bad bills from being passed. Second, you only need 60 votes

Second, is that the House is the lower house and the Senate is the upper House. The upper house traditionally is in place to provide a more thorough review of bills, as well as to provide advice and consent to judicial and executive nominees. Without the filibuster, the majority party would rule unchecked - with it, the majority party needs to produce more moderate, bipartisan bills.

In most cases recently, filibusters have been used by Republicans on Obama's nominees that they don't like. Democrats don't like this and have threatened to abolish the filibuster, even though they opposed doing so in 2005 when they decided to filibuster judicial nominees (something perceived in Senate history as a major no-no, especially since the policy of the GOP is to confirm almost any judicial nominee, especially in the Supreme Courty) and the Republicans threatened to do a similar thing. It's basically very hypocritical IMO that the Democrats want to abolish it now, when a decade ago they loved it.
Stephen_Hawkins
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7/19/2013 10:18:33 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/19/2013 9:37:07 AM, TN05 wrote:
At 7/18/2013 11:35:09 PM, Bannanawamajama wrote:
This isn't a I don't like Republicans thing, I thought it was just as strange and nonsensical when that Wendy Davis person did it in Texas.

Im wondering why everyone seems to agree that Filibusters are a great thing in democracy? If a majority has the votes it needs to push something through, they should be able to make a law proceed right? Why do you need 2/3 approximately to do anything beyond ammending the constitution?

Now theres some concerns about minority party getting shut out of democracy and such but if a topic is really controversial and needs more debate, you should be able to convince 4-5 people from the other party not to vote for it right? It seems strange to me that the political system makes it so easy to filibuster, that if they wanted to a person could literally block anything that doesn't have overwhelming support without any effort, but no one seems to mind?

Also, why is this only a Senate thing? The House of representitives seems just as hectic and uncooperative with itself as the Upper Chamber, did the Founding Fathers just assume the House would be reasonable enough to not need it or something?

There are several reasons. We are a republic, not a democracy,

The amount of times I have b*tched about this utterly false claim makes me wonder about the disconnection between the academic community and the electorate. A republic is a polity where the officials gain their position in a non-hereditary fashion. The most serene republics of Venice and Genoa were both republics. A democracy literally means rule by many, which takes many forms, but most commonly is the liberal democracy which we have in almost all republics. The UK is a parliamentary democracy in the Westminster fashion, but not a republic. Venice was a republic but not a democracy. The united states, France, Germany, and most other western countries are democratic republics. And no unpartisan scholar or textbook will tell you otherwise, and certainly not that America isn't a democracy.

This only way to make that sentence accurate is to say "America is a republic, not a pure democracy", which would be like saying "John is blonde, not fat!". It is somewhat unconnected.

and the filibuster is in place to ensure the minority has the right to at least temporarily prevent bad bills from being passed. Second, you only need 60 votes

British, not American, therefore don't care. Dealing with the ought, not the is.


In most cases recently, filibusters have been used by Republicans on Obama's nominees that they don't like. Democrats don't like this and have threatened to abolish the filibuster, even though they opposed doing so in 2005 when they decided to filibuster judicial nominees (something perceived in Senate history as a major no-no, especially since the policy of the GOP is to confirm almost any judicial nominee, especially in the Supreme Courty) and the Republicans threatened to do a similar thing. It's basically very hypocritical IMO that the Democrats want to abolish it now, when a decade ago they loved it.

It's not hypocrisy, it's pragmatism. Democrats don't like the republicans using power when they're in office, but they'll do stop themselves, because it is the easiest way to pursue the fulfilling of your mandate. The republicans I am sure love filibusters now but hatred them when bush was in office.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

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rockwater
Posts: 273
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7/19/2013 10:31:26 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Prior to the early 20th century, The Federal government did not have nearly as much power over the economy as it does today (and rightly so - otherwise our 300 plus million person economy could not function). After the new deal, there were a few decades of bipartisanship (although the coalition needed to reach 60 votes in the senate was different on economic issues than on social issues largely due to socially conservative (or even segregationist) southern Democrats, who are now a thing of the past. After the election of Reagan, the two parties drifted apart on economic issues and the rise of the religious right along with the increasing social progressivism of the Democratic Party has also polarized them on social issues. A 60 vote requirement just cannot work anymore. If a Senator wants to filibuster, s/he should have to do the real thing. Abolish all ways to endlessly delay up/down majority votes in legislation other than literally standing up and trying to speak forever.
DetectableNinja
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7/19/2013 10:35:00 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/19/2013 10:31:26 AM, rockwater wrote:
Prior to the early 20th century, The Federal government did not have nearly as much power over the economy as it does today (and rightly so - otherwise our 300 plus million person economy could not function). After the new deal, there were a few decades of bipartisanship (although the coalition needed to reach 60 votes in the senate was different on economic issues than on social issues largely due to socially conservative (or even segregationist) southern Democrats, who are now a thing of the past. After the election of Reagan, the two parties drifted apart on economic issues and the rise of the religious right along with the increasing social progressivism of the Democratic Party has also polarized them on social issues. A 60 vote requirement just cannot work anymore. If a Senator wants to filibuster, s/he should have to do the real thing. Abolish all ways to endlessly delay up/down majority votes in legislation other than literally standing up and trying to speak forever.

Pretty much this.

I think if someone truly feels strongly about something enough to filibuster, they should get the fvck up there and, y'know...ACTUALLY FILIBUSTER? The filibuster in Texas over the abortion bill (even though it still passed) is a great example.
Think'st thou heaven is such a glorious thing?
I tell thee, 'tis not half so fair as thou
Or any man that breathes on earth.

- Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
bladerunner060
Posts: 7,126
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7/19/2013 10:36:00 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Filibusters are good when they are what they're intended to be: a nuclear option.

They're supposed to be the last option for the minority or individual who truly believes a bill to be so bad that they feel they must stop its passage. In order to do so, they're supposed to have to actively sacrifice by having to actually stand there and continually speak. Might even end their career as they stand there, because they've ground the government to a halt. But it's that important to them.

Unfortunately, modern Congressional rules allow them to do a filibuster with no cost; so that what should be the nuclear option becomes the "it's Tuesday" option.
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wrichcirw
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7/19/2013 10:56:05 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
All filibusters really are are just another way to emphasize a stronger consensus on a certain issue. It just raises the bar from a simple majority to a super-majority to get certain pieces of legislation passed. It's more flexible than just a blanket 60% vote requirement in that 50% can pass legislation if the legislating body allows for it.

Just imagine how much MORE deadlock there would be in Congress if everything required a 60% vote.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
Stephen_Hawkins
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7/19/2013 11:52:13 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/19/2013 10:36:00 AM, bladerunner060 wrote:
Filibusters are good when they are what they're intended to be: a nuclear option.

still don't understand this "Nuclear Option". The Filibuster is to the Nuclear Option as Duke Nukem Forever was to revolutionising the game shooter industry.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

Social Contract Theory debate: http://www.debate.org...
Stephen_Hawkins
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7/19/2013 11:53:21 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/19/2013 10:31:26 AM, rockwater wrote:
Prior to the early 20th century, The Federal government did not have nearly as much power over the economy as it does today (and rightly so - otherwise our 300 plus million person economy could not function). After the new deal, there were a few decades of bipartisanship (although the coalition needed to reach 60 votes in the senate was different on economic issues than on social issues largely due to socially conservative (or even segregationist) southern Democrats, who are now a thing of the past. After the election of Reagan, the two parties drifted apart on economic issues and the rise of the religious right along with the increasing social progressivism of the Democratic Party has also polarized them on social issues. A 60 vote requirement just cannot work anymore. If a Senator wants to filibuster, s/he should have to do the real thing. Abolish all ways to endlessly delay up/down majority votes in legislation other than literally standing up and trying to speak forever.

This all sounds good to me! :)
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

Social Contract Theory debate: http://www.debate.org...
rockwater
Posts: 273
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7/19/2013 2:36:31 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/19/2013 11:52:13 AM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:
At 7/19/2013 10:36:00 AM, bladerunner060 wrote:
Filibusters are good when they are what they're intended to be: a nuclear option.

still don't understand this "Nuclear Option". The Filibuster is to the Nuclear Option as Duke Nukem Forever was to revolutionising the game shooter industry.

The "nuclear option" regarding the filibuster in the US Senate is not any kind of filibuster but instead is a way of changing the debate rules if the Senate (and hence limiting the possible uses if the filibuster) trough some parliamentary machinations that only require a majority vote to be approved. It means having a vote that needs 51 out of 100 to pass in order to limit the kinds of votes that need 60 to pass. It was threatened by Republicans when they controlled the Senate (but then a compromise was agreed to prevent it) and now Democrats are threatening it but I suspect a similar compromise will emerge. In the absence of a supermajority for either party, the filibuster gives each individual Senator, regardless of whether they are in the majority party or not, lots of pork funding for pet projects in their stats that they can use as negotiating chips, and lots of campaign contributions from lobbyists. Why would they give that up? It will take lots and lots of constituent pressure from a majority of states and across party lines to get rid of the filibuster as it exists now - ie, being able o filibuster without really standing up and speaking forever.
bladerunner060
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7/19/2013 3:01:23 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/19/2013 11:52:13 AM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:
At 7/19/2013 10:36:00 AM, bladerunner060 wrote:
Filibusters are good when they are what they're intended to be: a nuclear option.

still don't understand this "Nuclear Option". The Filibuster is to the Nuclear Option as Duke Nukem Forever was to revolutionising the game shooter industry.

Well, perhaps my prose was a bit florid. The point was that it shouldn't be a trivially easy thing to do to just to be obstinate. It should be relatively difficult, but achievable by even one person, as in the recent abortion rights filibuster that was what my conception of the filibuster should be.

Are you familiar with the "dual-track" workaround that they have in the states these days? Is there something similar in UK legislature?
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Bannanawamajama
Posts: 125
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7/19/2013 5:20:24 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Thank you, you guys are giving some good insight. I guess the problem I still see with this system is that technically a minority party needs to get to 50 votes to ensure they can pass something through, but the majority needs 60. It seems awkward to give the side with presumably less support in the general public an advantage.

And someone mentioned how you are supposed to stand and talk the whole filibuster, but that doesn't really happen today does it? I thought senators just call a filibuster and everyone sits around and waits for the issue to get resolved?

Also one more question. In a 2 party system like the US, do independents and 3rd party senators get to use the filibuster too? Normally I expect it wouldn't matter because if the major partys agree they would have over 60 votes, but if hypothetically some bill came in that the Tea Party and super liberal Liberals both hated but enough moderates liked that there were 53 votes or something, is a senator who doesn't represent either party get to use it, or is it specifically for the major minority party?
TN05
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7/19/2013 6:52:47 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/19/2013 5:20:24 PM, Bannanawamajama wrote:
Also one more question. In a 2 party system like the US, do independents and 3rd party senators get to use the filibuster too? Normally I expect it wouldn't matter because if the major partys agree they would have over 60 votes, but if hypothetically some bill came in that the Tea Party and super liberal Liberals both hated but enough moderates liked that there were 53 votes or something, is a senator who doesn't represent either party get to use it, or is it specifically for the major minority party?

Yes, they do get to use it, because the filibuster is a purely individual act. It has nothing to do with party affiliation. As of right now, there are only two Senators that are independent - Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine - both of whom caucus with the Democrats, meaning they are treated just like any other Democratic senator.

A 'caucus' basically consists of the members of the two major parties, plus anybody else that chooses to join them. This doesn't necessarily consist of all members of one party - former senator Joe Lieberman was a registered Democrat, but served as an independent caucusing with the Democrats in his last term. In fact, if you want you can even caucus with a party you aren't registered and didn't run in. There is one guy in the New York state senate (not the national senate) who was elected as a Democrat and is registered as a Democrat, but caucuses with the Republicans.