End the Fili-Bluster


Since when is the mere threat – spoken anonymously and before any public debate has happened – of a filibuster enough to kill all action in the Senate?  When a few members of the Senate threaten to huff and puff legislation, even when it has bi-partisan majority support, and Senator Reid acts like the house has already been blown down.

The Filibuster - that thing we imagine a Senator doing - standing for 18 hours without eating or drinking or relieving their bodily functions, in order to champion some important cause - has been reduced by Senator McConnell and Reid to a Fili-BLUSTER.  All Senators need to do is quietly, secretly suggest that they might oppose a bill and it never sees the light of day.  It never gets debated.  There are no hearings, no public dialogue.  How did super-popular bills like the Dream Act, the DISCLOSE Act and gun control bills get killed? Do you remember someone talking endlessly about the right to bear arms or why immigrant students should not be granted a path to citizenship on the floor of the Senate?  No, a small minority of Senators just fili-blustered.

The Founding Fathers considered whether to allow a small minority to be able to stop a bill from receiving vote – and rejected the idea. What would our Founding Fathers think if they knew that a secret Senate minority has been using the fili-bluster to hold up not only bi-partisan bills, but also judicial nominations, and even Presidential appointments.  Alexander Hamilton warned in Federalist Paper 22 that such a requirement would be used to:

“embarrass the administration, destroy the energy of government, and subject decisions of Congress to the caprice of an insignificant, turbulent, or corrupt junta.”

Wow! Other than using words like “caprice,” it’s like Hamilton was commenting on the Senate of 2013. The fili-bluster has been used over 400 times during Senator Harry Reid’s tenure to essentially embarrass Obama and destroy the energy of government.

So now we have a teeny-tiny compromise to lift the fili-bluster on President Obama’s nominees.  Imagine if we could actually do the same for all bills.  The simple majority vote on the nominees should lay the groundwork for ending the gridlock around all Senate votes.  As John Nichols of the Nation notes:

The bottom line is that filibuster reform is necessary, not just to renew the confirmation process but for the purpose of legislating. As Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said after details of Tuesday’s agreement took shape, “This trend to abuse and misuse the filibuster clearly should be addressed by an effort to change the rules. I’m hopeful that we will push ahead, that in fact the effort will not end here,”

It’s time to tell our Senators (including Senators Feinstein and Boxer) to STAND UP for their principles.  Literally.  They need to vote to end fili-blustering and require, if a Senator is going to oppose a bill, that they make themselves known, state their reasons why, and do it on the Senate floor. 

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