Thursday, December 09, 2010

Jimmy Stewart, where are you?

From Wikipedia, of course:

“In the modern filibuster, the senators trying to block a vote do not have to hold the floor and continue to speak as long as there is a quorum, although the Senate Majority Leader may require an actual traditional filibuster if he or she so chooses. In the past, when one senator became exhausted, another would need to take over to continue the filibuster. Ultimately, the filibuster could be exhausted by a majority who would even sleep in cots outside the Senate Chamber to exhaust the filibusterers. Today, the minority just advises the majority leader that the filibuster is on. All debate on the bill is stopped until cloture is voted by three-fifths (now 60 votes) of the Senate. Some modern Senate critics have called for a return to the old dramatic endurance contest, arguing that the ease with which a nominal ‘filibuster’ can be staged (compared to the real suspension of business) has led to a progressively wider use of it and has contributed to perceived ‘gridlock.’”

A “procedural” vote for DADT failed today 57 to 40 in the Senate.   Note please that there were 57 of 100 Senators “voting to vote” on DADT.  They do these silly things because of the filibuster – once a person opposed says filibuster, you have to get 60 votes to end it to vote.  Then you only need 51 votes. Susan Collins and a couple of other Republican Senators say they’ll vote for it, someday, after they debate a long time.  These are the same Senators that signed the letter that said nothing was getting done until the Senate passed the extension of the Bush tax cuts.  Classic cross-examination:  “Were you lying then or are you lying now?”

Consensus is nice and as vestigial as the appendix.  If the Senate is going to give such great weight to historical methods, they ought to do it the way they used to.  Susan Collins and her friends should get up there and talk and talk and talk and do nothing else.  We can start a C-Span 3 or 4 or whatever the next number is.  All minority cranks, all the time.


Thomas said...

I think they should ad some television appeal to filibusters by bringing in some elements from Reality TV: Let the senators talk for as long as they want to, but every so often make them dance with Bristol Palin or eat a bug.

The Curmudgeon said...

Nothing wrong with the filibuster a la Jimmy Stewart -- the problem is only with these modern pretend filibusters where no one has to talk and no one has to listen. Shutting Jimmy Stewart up should take 61 votes -- at least. Claude Rains had a majority of votes lined up before Stewart got going (though it was slipping as Stewart kept talking and the Senators agreed to keep a quorum on the floor in teams).