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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Filibuster (III)

Just because I don't think the filibuster is itself unconstitutional (leaving aside whether it is constitutional to entrench rule changes), by the way, does not mean I am entirely happy with the status quo, for reasons that may resonate with the deliberation experts on this blog.  As it stands, because no one actually wishes to be inconvenienced, personally or politically, by an actual, Mr. Smith-type, phone-book-reading-at-3am-style filibuster, the threat to filibuster now substitutes for any actual filibuster.  I think that's unfortunate, and would be perfectly happy to see an insistence by the Senate on actual filibusters.  Requiring someone to stand on his or her feet for as long as it takes more effectively publicizes the issue for which someone thinks a filibuster is necessary; it achieves the genuine interruption of Senate business that the filibuster is supposed to accomplish, thus making the majority question whether their commitment to the issue is genuine; and, more importantly, it requires one or more members of the minority to personify that interruption of Senate business, and so bear any political costs (or benefits) involved in the decision to hold up the majority.  The Senate is in many respects a counter-majoritarian body, and the filibuster may contribute usefully to that quality of the body.  But if is to be a counter-majoritarian deliberative body, the filibuster ought to have some deliberative character, and not merely serve as an additional, silent vetogate.

Posted by Paul Horwitz on April 26, 2005 at 12:10 PM in Law and Politics | Permalink


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Yes -- C-span would be so much more interesting with a Mr. Smith style showdown.

Though I've heard somewhere that one of the last real filibusters was the attempt (by Thurmond and others) to stop the civil rights act, and that makes the concept sound a little less appealing.

Posted by: Kaimi | Apr 26, 2005 6:14:54 PM

Really. It is a telling sign of a politician what they choose to read when filibustering. I, for one, would love to see someone get up for a filibuster with the Complete Works of William Shakespeare to start.

Posted by: Joel | Apr 26, 2005 3:49:12 PM

Hear, hear! Plus there's the ever-important issue of STYLE. When did our politics become so banal and even milquetoast that a "fillibuster" can be achieved without the Phone Book?

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Apr 26, 2005 3:21:05 PM

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