Con: Filibusters don't achieve intended purpose, cause unnecessary holdups


Oct. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.

State Sen. Wendy Davis' 11-hour filibuster may have pushed back the vote on Senate Bill 5, but the move later passed during a vote in special session.

And while Sen. Ted Cruz's actions helped spur a government shutdown, the Affordable Care Act he hoped to defund had been signed into law years before.

Thus, Jane Bernal, former chairwoman of the Victoria County Democratic Party, said filibuster efforts don't always accomplish their goals.

"I know they got the public involved, and I guess that's what a filibuster is for," she said of the Texas politicians. "But neither one of them achieved their goal."

The filibuster has been around for years and always will be, Bernal said - unless major change takes place.

That's where Common Cause hopes to step in.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy group, which works for political change, in June put out a news release urging a federal appeals court to deem the filibuster unconstitutional. It's the 60-vote rule - the fact that a minority of senators can kill legislation passed by the United States House of Representatives - that brings the real issue, according to the release.

" ... The (Constitution's) framers would be appalled by a Senate that requires 60 votes for every item of legislative business and confirmation of nominees," Stephen Spaulding, Common Cause's staff counsel, said in the release. "And with the Senate hamstrung by its own rules, we have no choice but to ask the courts to settle this question once and for all."

Still others hope to reform - not eliminate - the filibuster process.

The Brennan Center for Justice, in a news release, detailed a number of potential fixes the Senate has considered. Those included, among other changes, mandating "talking filibusters" - those in which people hoping to block legislation or nominations must take to the floor and speak - and streamlining the nomination process.

"The last Congress was one of the least productive in history," Brennan Center President Michael Waldman said in the January release. "It is natural to blame divided government, but Senate paralysis, due to the filibuster, is a major factor crippling Congress. Fixing the filibuster is the first step in revitalizing our government."

Pro: Filibusters raise awareness, allow work to get done



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