Note: This is a repost of an earlier post of mine, with a few substantial revisions, given current events.
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."
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.
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
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
[...]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.
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
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 ...
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.
by Ed Morrissey, hotair.com -- Jan 24, 2013
[...]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.
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.
And thanks to Harry Reid and the seven or so Democrats who
[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.