Monday, February 05, 2007

Talking About the War

With Mitch McConnell threatening a filibuster of the Warner compromise resolution on the "surge", I'd like to make a pitch for the majority to hold the minority to a good old-fashioned talking filibuster, rather than the namby-pamby affairs that have passed for filibusters over the last 30 years. Indeed, I can't recall a full-fledged talking filibuster since the time at whcih the Senate began broadcasting its proceedings on TV.

The modern practice has been to filibuster by consent. In other words, the filibustering senators announce a filibuster, and then the Senate moves on to other business, occasionally taking up the filibustered bill or resolution as time permits. Eventually, senators get sick of waiting (or not), and a cloture motion is presented, which may or may not pass. In any event, the business of the Senate doesn't grind to a halt; rather, the filibustered matter is ignored for a while.

It doesn't need to be that way, though. The majority leader effectively controls the flow of business through the Senate, usually on unanimous consent agreements with the minority leader. Frankly, I would like to hear the Mitch McConnell-and-minions of the Senate talk themselves to death over why the President's Iraq policy is the right policy. I think that they would sound ridiculous, but I think we need to have a full and public airing of the issues. And I'm betting that they wouldn't really have the guts (as Huey Long did in the 1940s) to talk about Cajun cooking, rather than about the issue at hand.

So, really, folks, let's have thhe Senate talk about Iraw. Keep talking until there's nothing more to say. Then vote.

8 comments:

Luis Villa said...

There was a full-blown filibuster of some of the early Bush judicial appointments in Nov. 2003. You haven't lived until you've seen Harry Reid read at length from his own history of Searchlight, Nevada.

Sobek said...

Republicans were calling for this very thing, over and over again, in connection with judicial filibusters by Dems (the abbreviated filibusters, not the full-blown type mentioned by Luis). The theory is that in this age of broadcast, no one wants to looks stupid yammering on and on in front of the public.

I just got an e-mail from Harry Reid encouraging people to demand a vote on this. For the life of me I can't figure out how he sent it, after refusing to give Bush's judges an up or down vote. It all boils down to two points:

1. Both sides will use the filibuster when it serves their purposes, regarless of past complaints; and

2. Both sides will complain when the other side uses the filibuster.

Howard Wasserman said...

The Republicans also staged their overnight talking "filibuster" to protest the filibustering of judges. I think it might have been around that same time in 2003.

Erwin Chemerinsky and Catherine Fiske had a great article in Stanford in the late 1990s on the history of the filibuster, including how and when the Senate moved away from the old all-out filibusters.

I agree with Sobek: With the cameras rolling, no one wants to be seen yammering on and on about one relevant thing (especially if it means a month-long defense of a politically unpopular military strategy) or yammering about unrelated things just to keep talking.

Mr. Smith does not look quite as heroic in real life, unfortunately.

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