Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What Is 'The Filibuster?'

CBS Sunday Morning News did a small spot regarding the history of the Filibuster. Senate rules, as laid by the founders, require that the upper house gain no less than 2/3rds support for any legislation before the legislation can be passed. Why is this? It helps to prevent simple rule of the majority. There are extremely few circumstances where a simple majority can pass legislation, this is referred to as the nuclear option or reconciliation. Reconciliation is only considered applicable when attempting to pass a budget, as congress is constitutionally mandated to perform this task. Any and all other legislation must pass with the 2/3rds majority. Filibustering is a procedural tactic that can be used by the minority party within the Senate to delay or prevent a vote on certain legislation. At any time where the controlling party within the Senate has 2/3rds of the seats (known as a super majority) and attempts to pass legislation, they do not need to garner support from the opposition party to do so. The only means left to the minority party to prevent the passage of the bill is what is called a filibuster. Rules within the Senate allow a senator to speak as long as they wish on any subject unless 3/5ths of the voting body brings debate to a close under what is called cloture. Often, the minority party will use the filibuster in the form of prolonged debate in order to prevent the passage of a bill to which they are adamantly opposed, but do not posses the required voting members to defeat.

The filibuster has gotten a bad name, and fortunately has not been required during the attempt to pass 'health care reform.' Keep in mind that until the special election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the Democrats had a super majority in the senate. This means that the Republicans did not posses the voting members to prevent 'health care reform' legislation from passing. However, the senate never brought the legislation to a vote because Democrats could not gain enough support within their own party to pass the legislation. If and when the 'health care reform' legislation is defeated, it will be because the Democratic party could not capitalize on it's super majority within the senate to pass the bill.

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