Tag Archives: filibuster

Democrats feeling good, however …

Democrats across the nation are feeling pretty good these days about the midterm election that’s just around the ol’ corner.

They’re so full of confidence that they believe they will retain — and possibly strengthen — their majority control of the U.S. Senate. The U.S. House, of course, remains an open question, which in itself is a sort of moral victory, given the certainty of a Republican takeover that everyone in the world just a few months ago was predicting would happen.

But I want to offer a word of caution to Democrats as they prepare for the midterm election. Many of them want to use a potentially strengthened Senate majority to get rid of the filibuster, which they believe — with some justification — has been misused by Republicans to block important legislation.

I agree that there ought to be some changes made in the filibuster, such as requiring senators to speak until grow hoarse while stopping bills from becoming law. These days all a senator has to do is object and that constitutes a “filibuster.”

However, ridding the Senate of this legislative tool can bite Democrats in the backside. What would they say, for instance, if they suddenly find themselves in the minority? The filibuster’s intent is to give senators in the minority a little extra punch to pack. Democrats know they won’t hold the majority forever; hell, they might not hold it this year, despite the tide that seems to be turning in their favor … at this moment!

My hope for Senate Democrats, if they are able to maintain the gavels of their committees, is that they don’t reach beyond their grasp as it regards the filibuster. I am no fan of the procedure, but I do understand why the Senate enacted the rule in the first place. It’s not written in the Constitution, but it does give senators a tool they can use to block bills that shouldn’t become law.

As for the midterm result, I am going to hope that Democrats are able to withstand the MAGA tide that has overwhelmed the Republican Party.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Mend, don’t end, filibuster

As a general rule I am inclined to oppose ridding the U.S. Senate of the filibuster, which gives senators in the minority a way to block legislation they oppose.

However, I am strongly in favor of amending the Senate rule. Instead of allowing a single senator to “filibuster” a bill simply by signing on to a measure to block it, the Senate needs to require senators to stand on the floor and talk the bill to death.

Make ’em hold the floor for as long as they can while they blab and blather on and on. That’s the way filibusters used to occur. Senators would yap and yammer for hours on end, collapsing at times, while they sought to talk legislation into oblivion.

Democrats want to rid the Senate of the filibuster. Republicans are standing firm in their support of the legislative rule. What might happen, though, after the 2022 election if Republicans get control of the Senate, pushing Democrats into the minority?

I can see a scenario where Republicans would want to deny Democrats a tool to block legislation, while Democrats would perform a one-80 and seek to keep the rule intact.

It’s not written into the U.S. Constitution. The filibuster is a Senate rule. It has been abused by senators who “filibuster” legislation without ever having to talk it to death. Make them use the rule the way it was intended.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

End the filibuster?

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The debate over whether to end the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate gives me heartburn.

It’s a “reform” that is fraught with peril.

You know how it goes. Senators in the minority use the filibuster to block legislation. It was created with the notion of allowing senators to talk bills to death by blathering on and on about this and that. It has become more of a procedural maneuver these days.

The peril lies in the political future of the Senate and which party maintains the majority.

At this moment, Democrats control a 50-50 Senate split only because they have a Democratic vice president, Kamala Harris, available to break tie votes. Democrats are angry with Republicans because they filibuster legislation that Democrats want enacted; creation of the Jan. 6 bipartisan commission is the latest significant example.

What happens, though, if Republicans take control of the Senate after the 2022 midterm election? Democrats who today are screeching for an end to the filibuster are likely to sing a different tune if they are caught in the minority among senators. Meanwhile, are Republicans going to be as quick to stand with the filibuster if their Democratic colleagues begin filibustering in an effort to kill GOP-friendly legislation?

Control of the legislative branch is a fluid thing. It sways back and forth.

This is a rule written by the Senate. It is not a constitutional provision. Thus, I am a bit concerned that Democrats’ insistence on ending the filibuster might bite ’em all in the backside if control of the Senate — as tenuous as it is — slips away.

Filibuster? Yes, but make ’em talk!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Senate Democrats and progressives around the country want to eliminate the filibuster from Senate procedure.

They contend it is being abused by the Republican minority in the “world’s greatest deliberative body.” I am not going to join that chorus. I don’t have a particular problem with the filibuster, other than the way it is implemented now.

Senators can declare a filibuster is in effect when they object to legislation. Then they go about their business as if nothing is happening.

If they’re going to filibuster, they should be forced to stand on the Senate floor and talk their lungs out in an effort to kill legislation. Make ’em blab about this and/or that, which is what the filibuster was designed initially to require.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said recently he would talk until he “fell over.” I might pay real American money to see that happen.

The filibuster is aimed to protect the interests of the political minority. At the moment, the GOP is the minority party. One day they might regain control of the Senate, although I don’t particularly want that to happen. What happens then, if the Senate kills the filibuster now, disallowing future political minorities from exercising the long-standing Senate rule?

The filibuster wasn’t written into the Constitution; it was enacted under Senate rule-making authority. Getting rid of it only solves the issue of the moment. The balance of power has this way of swinging back and forth.

If we keep the filibuster, by all means then make senators stand in the well and bluster and bloviate until they do fall over.

Keep the filibuster, however …

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Democrats smell a certain radical political overhaul in the making.

They need to take great care if they intend to enact it. The filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate looms in the proverbial gunsights of congressional Democrats and their fellow activists out here in the peanut gallery.

They want to end it now that they have control of both congressional chambers and the White House

Senators can filibuster while opposing legislation they oppose. One of them can stand on the Senate floor and talk about anything they want. Sometimes they read from children’s books, or ramble on about this or that … they just bluster.

It requires a super majority of senators to end a filibuster.

The aim is to stop legislative momentum. The filibuster can be abused. And it has been abused in recent years, chiefly by Republican senators.

Democrats see an avenue to end the procedure now that they have the slimmest of majorities in the Senate, which is split 50-50; but Democrats have a weapon in the person of Vice President Kamala Harris, who can break a tie.

The filibuster — which dates to era of ancient Rome — protects the minority members’ political interests. Do I want the GOP to advance its legislative agenda? No. I don’t. I do, though, want to caution any Democratic zealot that their party is unlikely to remain in the majority forever. Political cycles have a way of wresting control from one party and handing it to the other one.

What happens if and when Republicans get control of the Senate, or the House or even the White House in the future?

I want to protect this process, with one provision: Democrats invoked what they called the “nuclear option” in 2015 by voting with a simple majority to end a filibuster that sought to block a judicial nominee put forward by President Obama. I don’t have a problem with maintaining that option.

As for the filibuster itself, let us just remember that what goes around, comes around. 

I am glad to see Democrats in control of the White House and Capitol Hill. Let’s not get carried away … hmmm?

Rep. Pelosi sets a blab record

This record needs to stand for a long time.

U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California believes strongly in immigration reform. She believes so strongly in it that she is able to talk for a verrrry long time about why Congress needs to enact it.

Pelosi put her commitment to the test today. She took the floor of the House and spoke — non-stop, without a break — for eight hours. She argued passionately on behalf of “Dreamers,” those undocumented immigrants who were granted a reprieve under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established near the end of the Obama administration.

That’s a filibuster-length harangue, only they cannot call it that in the House; only the Senate allows filibusters, which enables senators to talk about whatever the heck they want for as long as they want.

Here, though, might be the most remarkable element of the Pelosi gabfest.

The former House speaker happens to be 77 years of age. Do not accuse me of being sexist by mentioning Pelosi’s age; I would say the very same thing about a comparably aged male member of Congress if he were able to talk as long as Pelosi has done.

Pelosi’s astonishing display of endurance is likely to remain on the books for a long time.

Nice going, Mme. Minority Leader.

End of judicial filibuster? A mixed blessing

I’ve long had a terrible conflict of emotions as it regards the filibuster, a tactic employed in the U.S. Senate designed to stall the progress of legislation … and appointments.

The Senate this week did away with its 60-vote rule to end filibusters. The rule change allowed the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But it’s the filibuster itself that gives me pause.

My own political bias clouds my view of what the Senate did as it regarded Gorsuch’s nomination. Given that the Republican-controlled Senate blocked an earlier high court nomination because a Democratic president had put a name forward to succeed the late Antonin Scalia, I saw some justification in what Senate Democrats sought to do with Gorsuch’s nomination.

But is the filibuster really an essential element of governance? I’ve long questioned it. A filibuster occurs when senators object to an issue before the body. They can filibuster in a number of ways, but the classic method is to hold the floor for hours, days, weeks — however long it takes — to talk about anything under the sun.

The Senate has had some champion filibusterers. I think of the late Wayne Morse from my home state of Oregon and the late Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Those fellows could bluster seemingly forever on anything in order to talk a bill to death.

We operate our government on the principle of “majority rule.” The word “majority” doesn’t imply “super majority,” which is what the former Senate filibuster rule required. Majority means one vote greater than half. The Senate comprises 100 members; therefore, 51 votes constitute a majority. Shouldn’t that be enough to settle a policy argument on the floor of the Senate?

We elect presidents with a simple majority of the Electoral College. All it takes is 270 electoral votes, out of 538 total, to elect a president. Is there a more important electoral decision to be made than that? We don’t require in the U.S. Constitution a super-majority of electoral votes to choose a president. So, why do senators insist on filibustering and then require 60 votes to end it.

The filibuster seems to be an obstructionist’s tool. As one who believes in “good government,” this activity appears to me to work against that principle.

Filibuster provides a rare Senate ‘victory’

Chris Murphy was incensed at his U.S. Senate colleagues.

Four years after his Connecticut constituents suffered the unspeakable grief from the Newtown school massacre, Congress hadn’t done anything to curb gun violence.

So, the Democratic lawmaker took the Senate floor the other day and began filibustering.

He was spurred to talk and talk and talk by the latest mass slaughter, of 49 individuals in Orlando, Fla., this past weekend.

I want to applaud Sen. Murphy for something he achieved from his 15-hour gabfest. He persuaded the Senate Republicans who run the place to hold votes on at least a couple of key bills that proponents say will help curb gun violence.

Hey, it’s a big deal. As big a deal is that it came about by a senator┬ápersuading his colleagues┬áto schedule┬áthese votes┬áby talking the issue to death.

Filibusters are unique to the Senate. The House doesn’t allow it.

A filibuster allows senators to talk about whatever they want. They can use the procedure to stall legislation. Some prominent lawmakers have used the filibuster to obtain legendary status. The late Sen. Strom Thurmond holds the record for non-stop Senate blabbing. My former senator, the late Wayne Morse of Oregon, was another well-known blowhard who knew how to use the filibuster to maximum advantage.

Sometimes senators’ use of the filibuster backfires. Ted Cruz of Texas sought to filibuster the Affordable Care Act to death in 2013. He failed.

Murphy, though, managed to get a vote on one of the knottiest issues of our time: gun control.

I am not sure where it will go. There are some interesting compromises to what Murphy favors, dealing with disallowing suspected terrorists from obtaining a firearm.

I won’t comment further here on the merits of what Murphy desires.

However, I applaud the senator for talking long enough to get the Senate leadership to at least put this issue to a vote.

A little self-awareness, please, Sen. Cruz

I cannot let this pass without comment.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called the filibuster led by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut a “distraction.” He said it’s a “game.” He labeled it “political gamesmanship,” which he said the public considers to be “ridiculous.”

Wow, dude.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/06/16/cruz_senate_filibuster_a_distraction_political_gamesmanship.html

Filibusters by their very nature are meant to “distract” senators.

I believe I’ll now point to Sen. Cruz’s own game of “political gamesmanship” when he led a faux filibuster┬áthree years ago to defund the Affordable Care Act. The effect was to temporarily shut down the federal government as Cruz read passages from Dr. Seuss on the floor of the Senate.

He didn’t succeed in defunding the ACA, but he did succeed in making a fool of himself.

Of all the 98 remaining senators who could have spoken out against Sen. Murphy’s filibuster that he used to force a vote on gun legislation, why did it have to be Ted Cruz, the unofficial king of “political gamesmanship”?

 

House members reaching into Senate affairs

It’s downright fun to watch members of one congressional body suggest the way members of the other congressional body should do their job.

Let’s presume that the upper chamber, the Senate, would prefer that the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, mind its own business.

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/232635-house-conservatives-push-mcconnell-to-gut-filibuster

Then again, they’re all on the same team, yes? They’re all interested in doing what’s right and correct for the country, aren’t they?

Maybe so. Maybe not.

U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, thinks the Senate should change its filibuster rules to strip power from Democrats. He wants Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” by not allowing Democrats to filibuster GOP-sponsored bills to death. The issue at hand is the Department of Homeland Security funding measure that’s being kicked to death on the floors of both chambers.

Remember when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid did the same thing when Republicans were in the minority? You’d have thought GOP senators’ heads would explode.

Now the fortunes are reversed. The GOP controls the Senate, along with the House. But among the Republican majority there exists a restive band of malcontents, the TEA party caucus, that wants to shake things up not only in their own body, but in the other one as well.

That’s where Labrador and fellow House TEA party insurgent Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., are seeking this change in Senate rules.

Someone needs to inform both of these young men about the institutional rivalry that exists between these two bodies. Senators represent their entire states and serve for six years. Those House members represent certain congressional districts, which have been gerrymandered — more than likely — to elect people of certain ideological stripes; they’re elected to mere two-year terms.

The Senate considers itself a more deliberative body; the House by nature is more raucous. Senators likely won’t admit to it, but they look down their noses at their House colleagues.

Thus, it is at some peril that Reps. Labrador and Huelskamp seek to tell the folks at the other end of the Capitol Building how to conduct their business.

Tread carefully, fellas.