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The Filibuster

August 11th, 2009

People have been talking about ending the filibuster, primarily because it has been abused so prolifically by the right wing, which uses it as a political weapon instead of the procedural safety check for which it was intended. Though they accused Democrats of abusing the filibuster before, Democrats under Bush were the very picture of restraint in comparison to the GOP today. Democrats used the filibuster mostly to block the worst, extremist judges that Bush tried to foist on the court (they blocked only 2% of Bush’s nominees, whereas Republicans in the 90’s blocked 30% of Clinton’s). Republicans, on the other hand, are using the filibuster on virtually everything that isn’t to their liking. When Democrats took over the Senate a few years ago, use of the filibuster exploded to historic highs.

Personally, I am not a big fan of getting rid of the filibuster; I think that it tends to be more useful to have a brake on legislation than to allow the party in power to do whatever it wants. The case can be made, however, that when something is abused to such an extreme extent, that even something useful may no longer be viable to keep around. Emergency brakes in passenger cars on trains are a great idea, but if people start pulling them three times a day for no good reason, I bet they’d be disabled and quick.

One thing that would be fun to watch is the Republican reaction: a few years ago, they said the filibuster was anti-Democratic and perhaps un-American and wanted to get rid of it themselves, so if Democrats tried to end it, they’d have to suddenly argue against their own points. Sure, Republicans are flaming hypocrites already because they are over-using the same filibuster they earlier condemned and vilified, but they’re doing so quietly now, and are not forced to make a vocal debate in which their prior opposition to the procedure would be thrown in their faces right away.

However, one will never lose any money betting on the Republican talent for reaching new lows of hypocrisy, and no doubt they would find a way to be righteously outraged without the tiniest scintilla of shame.

A moot point in any case–Dems are not going to do away with the filibuster.

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