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The talking filibuster as a component to an overall reform of the filibuster in the Senate seems to be pretty popular. Jeff Merkley has pointed out that some of the more popular recent pieces of legislation like the DISCLOSE Act and the Veteran's Jobs Bill would've passed if the Republicans had been forced to publicly air their opposition through a classic filibuster rather than procedural sleight of hand.

So, make the old blowhards talk and make the entire country aware whenever the jerks have taken an unpopular position on some much-needed legislation.

Actually, that's a terrible idea and it won't solve our filibuster problem at all.

To begin with, in this era of constant filibustering that forces the Senate to muster 60 votes to pass anything at all, it's important to remember the purpose behind this filibustering. Most of this legislation isn't something that any individual senator opposes. It's a matter of an entire political party grinding the process to a halt. The Democrats in the majority have the ability to force a filibustering senator to stand up and talk any time they want. The reason we have silent filibusters is to move along the legislative process. Even with popular legislation that would survive a cloture vote, it'll take more than a week to get it passed after it gets to the floor with the Republican minority routinely dragging its feet. If we let some dipstick jabber away, that only adds to that amount of time.

Worse, while a senator holds the floor, no other business can be brought up. That would be a Republican dream since it would not only delay whatever bill the senate is working on, it would delay everything else for however long they cared to talk. And boy would they talk.

The problem with envisioning the quixotic Jimmy Stewart hoarsely making his case or Strom Thurmond pissing in a bottle while reading the phone book is that the filibusters these days are organized by an entire party. It wouldn't be some dude talking for hours; it would be a relay of a dozen dudes talking for days. No matter how popular a bill is, there's going to be a big enough bunch of Republicans that are absolutely fireproof in terms of national opinion and in no danger of losing re-election. Worse, anything that they can even remotely make a case against will be used to delay everything else. A vital hurricane response bill could be subject to delays by whatever happens to be before it on the calendar.

Finally, when it comes to making their case, the Republicans are under no obligation to do so. Standing up to say his piece, a Republican senator can just tell dirty jokes. The most likely thing that will happen is that on any given piece of legislation we can expect the Republicans to simply lie. We just had a presidential nominee spend more than a year essentially lying his ass off 24 hours a day. It's no great stretch to think that a mere senator could manage it for a couple hour shift. And once they start talking, there's no way to shut them up.

With the delaying power of a talking filibuster, the GOP could afford to engage in one relatively rarely in order to make it newsworthy. At the same time, it wouldn't take more than a few a year to bog down the Senate to its current level of ineffectiveness.

The only real solution to our current filibustering nightmare is to change the rules regarding what is debatable and how many votes it takes to end debate. The best ideas I've heard bandied about include making motions to proceed non-debatable, and Tom Udall's plan of gradually lessening the number of votes needed to invoke cloture on any one issue.

However filibuster reform shakes out, so long as one party is willing stand in opposition to everything the other party wants to pass, we're still going to be screwed. No matter the rules, absolute opposition will make it tough to do the people's business in the Senate. Giving the Republicans the chance to talk out a filibuster will just make it harder to accomplish anything no matter how satisfying it is to force those blowhards to work for it.

Originally posted to stealthisbook on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 11:03 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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