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Filibustering the government itself


The People for the American Way released a report this week making an important vote on the filibuster process. Most people think of the filibuster in terms of killing bills. They don't think of it in terms of slowing them down. But putting aside all the high-profile filibusters, the Republican minority has unleashed a slew of filibusters on non-controversial legislation that just chew up Senate time.

"After cloture is filed it takes up to two days before Senate rules allow a vote on the petition," explains the report. "Then, Senate rules permit the Republicans to insist on an additional 30 hours of post-cloture debate." Obviously, the filibuster is properly used to extend debate. But that can also be overdone. From appropriations to nominations to legislation, a lot passes through the body. Forcing cloture votes -- with the attendant three days of spacing -- on everything means that much simply can't get done.

And that appears to be the situation: Most of the GOP's filibusters are fruitless. According to PFAW, "a full 89% of the time, the cloture vote did nothing but delay the inevitable -- a huge increase from the previous high of 56%." And in a majority of those cases, cloture was passed with more than 65 votes -- that is to say, the vote was bipartisan. In one case -- a bill extending unemployment insurance -- the final vote was 97-0.The filibuster isn't being used to block a particular issue but to obstruct the legislative process in general. It is, increasingly, a filibuster against a functioning government, not against polarizing pieces of legislation.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 28, 2009; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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It sounds like the real reform needed in in curtailing the hours needed for a cluture vote. Cut them down to 10% of what they are now and a lot more movement could start happens, not that there aren't other tricks to be found to slow things down.

Posted by: EricS2 | December 28, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

For most situations, I'm all about anything slowing down our government. Their insistence that they somehow know the perfect way each of us should live in a "free" country, and arrogance in one size fits all on a national scale should take as long as possible.

Posted by: crashdsinc | December 29, 2009 12:43 AM | Report abuse

It would be nice if the main stream media made note of this frequently. Republicans for the most part are now only repugnant and obstructionist. How can anyone support this platform ?

Posted by: Falmouth1 | December 29, 2009 5:43 AM | Report abuse

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