I’m watching a lot of coverage about the events on the floor of the Senate relating to the status of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and the discussion is getting to the future of the filibuster. I, for one, like the filibuster–not in its current form, of course. I think that in its previous form–with a talking filibuster requirement–it could be a very useful tool.
A talking filibuster would require a member of the opposing Party to stand in the well of the Senate and talk for as long as s/he can to prevent a vote on the bill. By keeping the floor, the filibuster would prevent any other business from coming to the floor of the Senate.
But back in 1970–just 52 years ago, not when the Founders watched Betsy Ross sew the first flag on the floor of Independence Hall before it flew over Fort McHenry, as many in the right wing would have you believe–the Senate changed the rule and allowed a two-track simultaneous process: the targeted bill will be filibustered, but no speeches need to be made to tie up the Senate. This was a mistake. A big mistake. It prevented any consequence for the Party instituting the filibuster. They could block any and all bills, requiring 60 votes to close debate and get a vote on the bill, without any pain or punishment for the person blocking passage of a bill that would pass with a majority vote.
With a talking filibuster, the opposing Party has an opportunity to make some final, last minute deals to soften the impact of the bill for their constituents. The majority Party would get support from members of the minority for provisions put into the bill, and people get tout bipartisanship. Yes, it’s pork barrel, but it’s also a way to get things done.
I would like to see some modifications:
- Use the talking filibuster for everything–no carve-outs.
- Limit the business day of the Senate to a 16-hour day. Give the filibusterer eight hours off every night, but no breaks during the filibuster itself.
- One filibuster per Senator per 2-year period that coincides with the House elections.
- If no Senator wants to talk for the entire time, the filibuster can be maintained by having 41 Senators sitting in the Senate for the entire session. They cannot work. They cannot leave. If they want to hold the country hostage, they should be treated like hostages themselves.