Revisiting the Filibuster

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The Other Klein argues today that it should be abolished:

The filibuster is the right to unlimited debate. It has instead become the refuge of those who could not win the last electoral argument, but seek to win the next one. The prime use of the filibuster now is to keep the majority party from governing successfully. It is the reason the stimulus is less likely to work and comprehensive health-care reform is unlikely to happen and climate change is unlikely to be averted.

The filibuster does, as The New York Times said, “fend off actions supported by a bare majority of the Senate, but deeply offensive to the minority.” But those “actions” amount to successful governance. What offends the minority is losing more seats. Generations before us have recognized this, and so long as the filibuster has been in existence, so too have wise politicians tried to constrain its capacity for mischief. But the experience of recent years suggests that the filibuster can no longer be contained. Foiling the majority is too tempting, it makes too much electoral sense. And so it may be time to finish the job that Henry Clay started. It may be time to abolish the filibuster.

As I’ve noted before in this space, I think the problem with the filibuster is that there aren’t enough of them. And by that, I mean real filibusters, the Mr.-Smith-Goes-To-Washington kind, where a Senator has to hold the floor and talk until he keels over. If Harry Reid called the minority’s bluff and made them stand before the country and hold up Senate business for days upon days, we’d see the tactic used more sparingly. And there might actually be consequences for doing it. Plus, it might be fun to watch one. At least once.

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