The Filibuster

I saw a graphic the other day that said this congress passed the fewest new laws in what, 40 years?  To some this represents “gridlock” in congress and is emblematic of the troubles we’re facing in an increasingly partisan world.  To me this is a feature.

Whatever the case, there is the belief that much of this inability to pass laws is as a result of the republicans penchant for the filibuster.  The procedural requirement that a bill obtain 60 votes to allow it to be voted on.  In other words, the bill really requires not a majority of the senate, but what can be construed as a SUPER majority.

Personally I’ve never been much of a fan of the filibuster.  The idea that a group of individuals can hold up the workings of the senate seems to me to be rather — well, childish.  The feeling i have for the filibuster is the same I felt as we watched Wisconsin play out.  First the democrat fled the state, escaping the reach of the law by the way, so as to prevent a vote on Governor Walkers budget bill that would have stripped the public unions of much of their ability to collectively bargain.  Then we watched as the state’s democrats forced a recall election for each senator and the governor.

Babies all.

So I resonate with the dislikers of the filibuster.  And I even acknowledge the increase in use of the procedure since Obama has take office and the republicans are in the minority.

What I don’t know is how often THIS happens:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday blocked Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) from attaching an amendment to the farm bill that would withhold U.S. aid to Pakistan.

Reid asked for unanimous consent Tuesday to consider a batch of five amendments to the farm bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S.3240), but Paul objected, arguing that his amendment on withholding aid to Pakistan should also be included.

In response, Reid performed a procedural move called “filling the tree,” or taking up all the amendment space, to keep Paul’s amendment from being considered.

Now, this is pretty “inside baseball” and even THIS whole series of events is questionable.  However, that’s how work gets done in the halls of the senate.  And if the Leader is going to prevent a silly procedure by the use of another silly procedure then he should not be surprised, or outraged, when THAT silly procedure is counter by the silly procedure we call the filibuster.


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