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Note:  This is a repost of an earlier post of mine, with a few substantial revisions, given current events.



History of the Word Filibuster

from NPR, All Things Considered, Listen  --  May 18, 2005

MICHELE NORRIS:  The word 'filibuster' comes from piracy.

MELISSA BLOCK:  The term first appeared in the English language in 1591, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The word was then 'flee-booters.' Its origins are probably Dutch, with some Spanish and French influences.

NORRIS: In the 17th century, flee-booters raided the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and earned a bad reputation. They were also called buccaneers and freebooters. The stuff these flee-booters stole was called booty.
[...]

NORRIS: The Oxford English Dictionary says the first time a legislator was called a filibuster to accuse him of being an obstructionist was in 1889.

BLOCK: And the next year, 1890, was the first usage of the word 'filibuster' to mean the tactic of talking for a long time to obstruct Senate business. Filibustering senators were, by extension, pirates raiding the Congress for their own political gain.
[...]


Aye!  Nay!  ... Aaah,  Nevermind!

Give it up, Matey's ...  "We object."


Filibuster and Cloture

from senate.gov

Using the filibuster to delay or block legislative action has a long history. The term filibuster -- from a Dutch word meaning "pirate" -- became popular in the 1850s, when it was applied to efforts to hold the Senate floor in order to prevent a vote on a bill.

In the early years of Congress, representatives as well as senators could filibuster. As the House of Representatives grew in numbers, however, revisions to the House rules limited debate. In the smaller Senate, unlimited debate continued on the grounds that any senator should have the right to speak as long as necessary on any issue.

In 1841, when the Democratic minority hoped to block a bank bill promoted by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, he threatened to change Senate rules to allow the majority to close debate. Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton rebuked Clay for trying to stifle the Senate's right to unlimited debate.

Three quarters of a century later, in 1917, senators adopted a rule (Rule 22), at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson, that allowed the Senate to end a debate with a two-thirds majority vote, a device known as "cloture." The new Senate rule was first put to the test in 1919, when the Senate invoked cloture to end a filibuster against the Treaty of Versailles. Even with the new cloture rule, filibusters remained an effective means to block legislation, since a two-thirds vote is difficult to obtain. [...]



In the tradition of the Founders, the Senate used to employ a Talking Filibuster ... to much fanfare, over the many years of the Republic.

5 Longest Filibusters in U.S. History

from Tom Murse, usgovinfo.about.com

The record for the longest filibuster goes to U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957, according to U.S. Senate records.
[...]

The second longest filibuster was conducted by U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York, who spoke for 23 hours and 30 minutes to stall debate on an important military bill in 1986.
[...]

The third longest filibuster in American political history was conducted by U.S. Sen. Wayne Morse of Oregon, described as a "blunt-spoken, iconoclastic populist." [...] Morse spoke for 22 hours and 26 minutes to stall debate on the Tidelands Oil bill in 1953, according to U.S. Senate archives.
[...]

The fifth longest filibuster in American political history was conducted by U.S. Sen. William Proxmire of Wisconsin, who spoke for 16 hours and 12 minutes to stall debate on an increase of the public debt ceiling in 1981.


So what happened?   WHY did they get rid of that "light of day" method for Blocking Bills, that you might passionately disagree with?


Jet airlines happened.  Long-extended weekends happened.  Congressional laziness, happened. And was codified.  Far from the prying eyes of the Founders ...


The Rise of the 60-Vote Senate  (pdf)
Gregory Koger, Political Science, University of Miami

[pg 4]

The Rise of the Silent Filibuster


[...]
One way to measure the value of senators’ time is to trace the emergence of the "Tuesday-to-Thursday Club" in the Senate. This is shown in Figure 2 [...]

The more value senators attached to their own time, and the greater the backlog of legislation waiting for Senate floor action, the more costly an attrition battle was for all senators, but especially the silent majority.

The turning point occurred in 1960. Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson led a determined effort to outlast Southern opposition to the 1960 Civil Rights Act while resisting attempts to invoke cloture. This effort failed on both counts. [...] Mansfield was chagrined at the spectacle of the 1960 civil rights filibuster and determined not to repeat it. Mansfield advocated using the previously dormant cloture process to limit filibustering instead. Over the next decade, senators gradually accepted the necessity of voting for cloture -- first on the Communications Satellite Act of 1962, then on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. From 1961 to the present, cloture votes have risen dramatically: there were two from 1951 to 1960, but 111 during the 110th Congress (2007-2008) alone.

This tactical shift from attrition to cloture led to the dramatic increase in filibustering. While attrition had become an ineffective response, the adoption of cloture had the unintended consequence of dramatically reducing the costs of filibustering. Obstructionists lost no more hours of physical effort -- now a senator merely threatens to filibuster with the expectation that Senate leaders will respond with bargaining or a cloture petition instead of calling his bluff. And, since modern filibusters are less visible (and more boring for the media), senators are less accountable for their obstruction. This is especially true for low-salience bills and nominations for which the costs of overcoming a filibuster exceed the benefits of winning, so a simple threat of a filibuster (public or private) is sufficient to keep them off the Senate floor.


And what the apex result of shifting that "silly" time premium of making Senators debate to block, and putting the burden back on the boring, bureaucratic, legislative process?  (We didn't have the 60 cloture votes, to take the real Vote, sorry America ... you understand right?)

Well, one simply needs examine the long List of Bills that never saw the "light of day" -- the formality of a Debate -- in the Congress of the last 2 years, the 112th Congress.  The all-time champion buccaneers of blocking Bills by invoking the Silent Filibuster!

It just so happened, They Objected!  Many hundreds of times.


PCTC Blog -- Common Sense Progressive Politics

[...]
Did you know, for example, that a total of 375 bills that passed the Democratic-majority House have been blocked by Republicans in the Senate?

That’s THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY-FIVE BILLS!


HR 12 -- Paycheck Fairness Act

H.R. 20 -- Melanie Blocker Stokes Mom’s Opportunity to Access Health, Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression Act

H.R. 320 -- CJ’s Home Protection Act

H.R. 448 -- Elder Abuse Victims Act

H.R. 466 –- Wounded Veteran Job Security Act

H.R. 515 –- Radioactive Import Deterrence Act

H.R. 549 -- National Bombing Prevention Act

H.R. 577 –- Vision Care for Kids Act

H.R. 626 –- Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act

H.R. 780 –- Student Internet Safety Act

H.R. 911 -- Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act

H.R. 985 -- Free Flow of Information Act

H.R. 1029 -– Alien Smuggling and Terrorism Prevention Act

H.R. 1110 –- PHONE Act and H.R. 1258 – The Truth in Caller ID Act

H.R. 1168 -- Veterans Retraining Act

H.R. 1171 –- Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization

H.R. 1262 -- Water Quality Investment Act

H.R. 1293 -- Disabled Veterans Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Increase Act of 2009

H.R. 1319 –- Informed P2P User Act

H.R. 1380 -- Josh Miller HEARTS Act

H.R. 1429 -- Stop AIDS in Prison Act

That long casualty list of the Silent Filibuster, nearly 400 long, routinely invoked by Republicans of the 112th Congress.  It just continued to grow, unnoticed, undebated -- unlegislated. Accountable only to the Senator's Jet-setting calenders. And their political pirating objectives of the day.


GOP blocks jobs bill in Senate

upi.com -- Nov. 3, 2011

[...]
"The American people deserve to know why their Republican representatives in Washington refuse to put some of the workers hit hardest by the economic downturn back on the job rebuilding America," Obama said [...]

Many Republicans said they favored transportation and infrastructure projects but objected to a provision that would fund the projects with a new tax on income over $1 million, The Hill.com reported.


We mustn't forget to add this piece of Legislation to the long casualty list of the Silent Filibuster, of the 112th congress:

Jobs and infrastructure, who needs those?  Certainly not the Minority Party, intent on sinking our economy ... all just to make a President look bad, for re-election.

Behold, what the non-talking Silent Filibuster has enabled -- the Founding Fathers must be very proud ...


Why the 'Silent' Filibuster Is Unconstitutional

by David RePass, theAtlantic.com -- Jan 4 2011

[...]
For the first thirteen decades of its existence, the Senate allowed unlimited debate. This meant that a single senator, or just a few, could hold up passage of legislation by talking interminably (filibustering). This tactic was rarely used at first, but over the years it began to be employed often enough that in 1917 the Senate adopted a Cloture Rule; debate could be ended by a two-thirds vote. The two-thirds was later changed three-fifths.

In recent years, cloture has been turned upside down. Now all the minority needs to do to prevent a bill from even reaching the floor is simply to threaten to filibuster. Debate never begins. Real filibusters almost never take place. This is called a "silent" filibuster -- an oxymoron if there ever was one.
[...]

The demise of majority rule in the Senate is a violation of the Founding Fathers' clear wishes and intent.

When it came to procedures, they believed that simple majorities, not supermajorities, should be the rule. This is demonstrated in Article 1, Section 5, of the Constitution which says that "a majority of each House shall constitute a quorum to do business."
[...]

Furthermore, the Founding Fathers required supermajorities in only five very special circumstances -- another clear indication that they assumed majority rule would be the norm. Two-thirds majorities were prescribed only to override vetoes, ratify treaties, expel members of Congress, propose amendments to the Constitution and to convict in impeachment cases.
[...]

Despite, the Founder's debatable intentions; despite their clear language in Article 1, Section 5; It is what it is.

Our extra-constitutional use of requiring a Super-majority agreement, in order to take a Simple-majority Vote -- still stands.  


McConnell, Reid agree on rules reform package

by Ed Morrissey, hotair.com -- Jan 24, 2013

[...]
    The pressure from the liberal senators, led by Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley and backed by a major coalition of progressive groups, created the political space for Reid to cut the deal with McConnell, which does include changes to how the Senate operates, but leaves a fundamental feature, the silent filibuster, in place.

    The deal would address the filibuster on the motion to proceed, which had regularly prevented the Senate from even considering legislation and was a major frustration for Reid. The new procedure will also make it easier for the majority to appoint conferees once a bill has passed, but leaves in place the minority’s ability to filibuster that motion once -- meaning that even after the Senate and House have passed a bill, the minority can still mount a filibuster one more time.

Yes, but the filibuster still applies, and the post-cloture debate was moot anyway.  The only really significant changes to the filibuster itself is that it can no longer be applied to a motion to proceed, but only to a floor vote, and that Senators must be present to filibuster.  It still takes 60 votes to gain cloture, and it still means that bills -- like, say, Dianne Feinstein’s assault-weapons ban -- will have to gain significant Republican support to pass.
[...]

And thanks to Harry Reid and the seven or so Democrats who don't much DO see the value of spending their time on the Senate Floor, explaining to the American People, the rationale of their various positions -- We the American People now have a ray of sunlight, that the 'Business of the People' might once again be done, by those pretending to lead speak for us, in those historic halls.

[Unfortunately] -- We the American People can [STILL] only sit by and wait to see what "legislative booty" ends up on the next casualty list of the Silent Filibusters (soon to be targeted) by the Minority Party of the 113th Congress ... as the Minority obstruction continues, unnoticed, undebated by the American Media. Accountable only to the Senator's Jet-setting calenders. Only sit by and watch the ongoing Obstruction of the 113th Congress carrying out their political pirating objectives -- on most matters of civil concern to most of the American People. Going so far as even to Shut Down the Government itself, in cynical last-ditch attempt to get their objectionable Govt-hating way.


Yep I'm sure this is just the kind of democratic system the Founding Fathers envisioned. One where non-debate and non-voting were the rules of the day. Gotta preserve those 4-day weekends afterall. Senators work SO hard, they need their rest.

The Business of the American People, not so much.  We'll just keep grinding away at our toil, no matter what happens -- or doesn't happen regarding our Business -- down in Washington DC. Why, that's why cans were made to be kicked ...

And roads, were made to degrade into rubble, left to their own fate, against in the extreme elements ... who silently object to any progress being made with respect to building that "better American future" ... for all Americans.  What ever the cost ...


If only those reports of basic American need, wouldn't go unheeded this time around.  Only to be told, Sorry America, you're on your own.  The Silent Minority has spoken.  Once again.  

You understand, they have plane to catch.  It's time to get out of Dodge, one more time.



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Comment Preferences

  •  The recent Filibuster "causality list" (4+ / 0-)


    Should be what's really "Topping the Charts" of Media Outrage

    ... but sadly it's not, because it's too boring, or something ...



    PCTC Blog -- Common Sense Progressive Politics

    [...]
    Did you know, for example, that a total of 375 bills that passed the Democratic-majority House have been blocked by Republicans in the Senate?

    That’s THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY-FIVE BILLS!


    HR 12 -- Paycheck Fairness Act

    H.R. 20 -- Melanie Blocker Stokes Mom’s Opportunity to Access Health, Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression Act

    H.R. 320 -- CJ’s Home Protection Act

    H.R. 448 -- Elder Abuse Victims Act

    H.R. 466 –- Wounded Veteran Job Security Act

    H.R. 515 –- Radioactive Import Deterrence Act

    H.R. 549 -- National Bombing Prevention Act

    H.R. 577 –- Vision Care for Kids Act

    H.R. 626 –- Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act

    H.R. 780 –- Student Internet Safety Act

    H.R. 911 -- Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act

    H.R. 985 -- Free Flow of Information Act

    H.R. 1029 -– Alien Smuggling and Terrorism Prevention Act

    H.R. 1110 –- PHONE Act and H.R. 1258 – The Truth in Caller ID Act

    H.R. 1168 -- Veterans Retraining Act

    H.R. 1171 –- Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization

    H.R. 1262 -- Water Quality Investment Act

    H.R. 1293 -- Disabled Veterans Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Increase Act of 2009

    H.R. 1319 –- Informed P2P User Act

    H.R. 1380 -- Josh Miller HEARTS Act

    H.R. 1429 -- Stop AIDS in Prison Act

    [...]
    But every single one of these bills is being blocked by every single Republican in the Senate, all of whom are working in lockstep to prevent a vote.


    H.R. 1469 –- Child Protection Improvements Act

    H.R. 1511 –- Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act

    H.R. 1514 –- Juvenile Accountability Block Grants Program Reauthorization Act

    H.R. 1580 –- Electronic Waste Research and Development Act

    H.R. 1585 -- FIT Kids Act

    H.R. 1617 –- Department of Homeland Security Component Privacy Officer Act

    H.R. 1622 -– Research and Development Programs for Natural Gas Vehicles

    H.R. 1675 –- Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2009

    H.R. 1709 –- STEM Education Coordination Act

    H.R. 1722 -- Telework Improvements Act

    H.R. 1727 -- Managing Arson Through Criminal History (MATCH) Act



    [...]
    Put simply, DEMOCRATS are passing bills to make things easier, and REPUBLICANS are refusing to even allow an “up or down vote.”

    H.R. 1741 -- Witness Security and Protection Grant Program Act

    H.R. 1796 –- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act

    H.R. 1803 -- Veterans Business Center Act

    H.R. 1807 –- Educating Entrepreneurs through Today’s Technology Act

    H.R. 1834 –- Native American Business Development Enhancement Act

    H.R. 1838 –- Amending Small Business Act

    H.R. 1824 -- Best  Buddies Empowerment for People with Intellectual Disabilities Act

    H.R. 1875 -- End the Trade Deficit Act

    H.R. 1879 -- National Guard Employment Protection Act

    H.R. 1933 –- A Child Is Missing Alert and Recovery Center Act

    H.R. 2020 -- Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2009

    H.R. 2093 –- Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act

    H.R. 2134 -- Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act

    [...]
    Once again; Democrats PASSED the following bills, and Senate Republicans prevented these bills from even coming to a vote.

    H.R. 2142 – Government Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Performance Improvement Act

    H.R. 2187 – 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act

    H.R. 2200 – Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act

    H.R. 2221 – Data Accountability and Trust Act

    H.R. 2352 – Job Creation Through Entrepreneurship Act

    H.R. 2454 – American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009

    H.R. 2510 – Absentee Ballot Track, Receive and Confirm Act

    H.R. 2529 – Neighborhood Preservation Act

    H.R. 2554 – National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers Reform Act

    H.R. 2611 – Authorizing the Securing the Cities Initiative of the Department of Homeland Security

    H.R. 2664 – Promoting Transparency in Financial Reporting Act

    H.R. 2693 – Oil Pollution Research and Development Program Reauthorization Act

    H.R. 2749 -- Food Safety Enhancement Act

    H.R. 2868 – Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009, Drinking Water System Security Act of 2009 and Wastewater Treatment Works Security Act of 2009


    In other words it's the Democratic party that believe in actually doing the People's Business (see the list above);

    It's the Republican Party who believe in Blocking Progress, ... in whatever form it takes.

  •  Maybe if ... (4+ / 0-)


    Maybe if ... we boiled the GOP Obstruction down

    to a few catchy graphics -- maybe the Media would cover it, then?

    ... then again, maybe not.  (considering their Ad Revenues "bottlenect" effect.)













    They Blocked that!
    by jamess -- Aug 30, 2012


    What else is "new[s]" !?

    •  which can ALL be summarized (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, Pluto, Glen The Plumber


      by 400 minority rule graphics that

      say "We don't need No stinkin' Debates,"

      like this one:



      Why is the Republican Record-Breaking use of the Filibuster -- Not a topic of the News?
      by jamess -- Sep 16, 2012


      good question, eh?

    •  jamess these are all excellent themes especially.. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Glen The Plumber, jamess, Pluto

      ..the "Where's the Money" sign - that is one that anyone can identify with - even teabagers.

      Remember the anger over Big banks and Wall street Bail-Out? - Wow that works.

      Here is a comment from awhile back:

      Rachel Maddow asks Who's got the money in America?
      And she kind of on purpose tricks her audience into a realization. - well..it phased me the way she presented this chart by Michael Norton @ Harvard business school & Dan Areily @ Duke Univ.

      It’s simple yet something in its design taken with what people polled think vs what actually is, struck me

      Who's got the money in America

      Shifting Wealth Away from the Middle Class–results:
      • The bottom 40% of US population owns less than 1% of all US wealth.
      • The top 20% of US population owns 84% of all US wealth.
      Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
      Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

      This is the part that caught me off guard.

      When Rachel Maddow showed the sections of this chart not all at once but one section at a time starting with what people thought, asking: 'how do you think the wealth is divvied up in America?'.

      Then what they wanted.

      And finally what was real. That’s what brought it home for me.

      • Actual US wealth distribution: shows actual US wealth distribution demographic data.
      • Estimated US wealth distribution: shows survey results from asking US citizens to estimate what they think US wealth distribution “actually is”.
      • Ideal US wealth distribution: shows survey results from asking US citizens to estimate what they think US wealth distribution “should be”.
      Because of their small percentage share of total wealth, both the “4th 20%” value (0.2%) and the “Bottom 20%” value (0.1%) are not visible in the “Actual” distribution.
      Most people don't realize that the Romneys of the world, the 1%ers have made off with and are hoarding far more of the wealth than they know.
      Source Michael Norton & Dan Areily (pdf): http://www.people.hbs.edu/...

      My comment:   http://www.dailykos.com/...

      Web site: Econ 101 Dregs of the future http://prof77.wordpress.com/...

      Plus this excellent video:

      Thx again jamess

  •  Considering some recent dairies (5+ / 0-)

    This one is a must read.

    .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Sat Nov 23, 2013 at 12:42:16 PM PST

  •  :) Rachel Maddow had a contest going on .. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, Glen The Plumber, Pluto, Simplify

    ..a year or so ago asking people to write in their ideas of what to re-name the filibuster. Rachel was concerned that the name itself made people zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    So I really enjoy your picture Matey!

    My submission to Rachel's contest:

    Dutch: vrijbuster

    To French: flibustier

    Then to Spanish: filibustero
    "The Golden Age of Piracy" 1550-1720

    Sir Francis Drake was a Pirate/Buccaneer who liked to raid Spanish ships and colonies. The Spanish called him a "filibustero"-> a Buccaneer/Pirate/Thief who was after "Free Booty".

    Other Irregular soldiers who liked to steal "Free Booty" were called filibusters.

    Freebooting: derogatory (cuz stealing is bad) ->

    Filibustering: more politely derogatory
    Solution: so called “Nuclear Option” to change Senate Rule XXII: cloture rule; to a simple majority.
                       "Nuke Freebooting-> Start Rebooting" the Senate
                       Eventually morphs into:       “Reboot the Senate”  


     It didn't work out but I got a kick out of learning some of the history of it.

    Also too Ezra Klein had the excellent chart last year

    bigger more clear view @ Ezra Klein link

    Thx jamess - very informative work

    That list of legislation that passed the house when Nancy Pelosi was in charge is impressive. I'm hoping that when Mitch McConnell follows through with his threat to be even more obstructionist that maybe the filibuster can be limited for legislation also in the next go round - at least the silent filibuster and also put the burden on the filibusterers that they ALL (a full quorum meaning all memebers of the opposition that is filibustering) must be present while filibustering and argument must be kept up or cloture  is automatically reached the minute that argument stops - or something along those lines

    We could have a couple of solid years of progress and bring back all that pre-passed legislation

    We have so much work to do. I made a partial list in this Diary - it's a  lot

    •  we really need to renew that contest (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, Glen The Plumber

      make it like an episode of Reality TV.


      Maybe people  would tune in to see:

      "... Which proposed new Bill will get thrown off the Island

       -- THIS WEEK ?

      ... in the on-going epic struggles on Legislative Island!


      You don't want to miss "Tribal Counsel" this week -- it's a real doosey!

      ... Here's a hint, Team D finally went on offense.  Gasp!


      Will their resolve hold?  How will Team R respond?

      These are only a few of the questions waiting to be answered, this week on Legislative Island!


      Thanks Eric Nelson, I like the idea,

      Quick someone, Find a civic-minded producer!


      well make a million,  and perhaps save the country too, as a nice bonus

  •  I no longer have much use for (5+ / 0-)

    ...disproportional state representation in the Federal government. It is just a states rights hold-over from the appeasement of slave owners in the obsolete US constitution.

    Having a senate is fine, but each senator should represent only a maximum of 3 million persons. States with fewer than 3 million persons are granted one senator. (That yields 100 senators and grows slowly over time.)

    This will restore the purpose of government = which exists solely to benefit the people.

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