As long-time readers of Swampland know, I am a big proponent of the filibuster. And I mean the Real Filibuster–not the make-believe ones that the little girls of the United States Senate are constantly waging, and not the occasional exercises where they pull out the
fainting couches cots and pretend that they are actually going to sleep on them.
That’s why I was delighted to read this interview in Ezra Klein’s column, in which Greg Koger, a political scientist at the University of Miami and the author of an upcoming book on the filibuster, exposes the real reason I have yet to get my wish of actually seeing one:
There’s a reason the Senate stopped doing this. Democrats are not going to want to sit around all day and be in the chamber listening to Republicans talk. They don’t want to give up fundraisers. They don’t want to give up trips. They’d have to give Republicans as much time as they wanted.
He also explains why it could actually be healthy for governance by the majority:
The benefit to the majority can be that public attention focuses. They know the bill is there and they know the Republicans are blocking it. That becomes the basis for news coverage. When will the bill be done? What’s going on today? In that sense, you can win. The point is not that you exhaust the Republicans, but that you embarrass them. X number of people died today. I hope that whatever you had to say was more important.
So do it, Harry Reid. Don’t try to stop a filibuster on the health care bill. Let them. Make them. Also, while you’re at it, if Tom Coburn wants to read the bill on the Senate floor, let him do it–with two stipulations. It should be Coburn himself who does the reading, not the poor overworked clerk. And the entire Senate should be forced to sit there in the Chamber and listen.
UPDATE: Here and on Twitter, a number of people are raising questions about whether this is really feasible. The answer is, yes, it is–but the Democrats (or whoever is in the majority) have to be prepared for “live” quorum calls, which means they have to remain ready to go to the floor with minutes notice. And if the Republicans (or whoever is in the minority) don’t show up? They can be arrested. Robert Byrd did it in 1988; Bob Packwood broke his finger in a scuffle with the cops and had to be carried onto the floor. You can read about it here.