Filibuster's demise harms democracy

  • Article by: JASON LEWIS
  • Updated: December 7, 2013 - 4:50 PM

“What kind of government have you given us?” asked a woman outside the Constitutional Convention of 1787. “A republic, madam, if you can keep it,” replied Benjamin Franklin.

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stpaulisbestDec. 7, 13 2:15 PM

Gee, you didn't mind the Republican threat to end the filibuster back in 2005 when the minority party Democrats filibusters fewer than one tenth the nominees the Republicans have filibustered. Back then, the Democrats caved in and made a deal with the Republicans that allowed the nominees to go to a vote (effectively giving up their right to filibuster). This time, the Democrats, after enduring more than 10 times the filibusters from Republicans made the same threat and deal with the Republicans. The difference? Unlike the Democrats the Republicans promptly broke their agreement. And the result is the very thing the Republicans threatened the Democrats with in 2005. The filibuster isn't in the constitution. It isn't a law. It isn't anything but a Senate rule. And when one party abuses the rules so massively then the result is that the rules can be changed. Look, the Republicans played a dangerous game and lost. If they didn't want to lose the filibuster then they should have kept their word. But then, they rarely do, do they?

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cstoney48Dec. 7, 13 2:57 PM

The filibuster was not part of the Madisonian vision for the Constitution. Of course the collective vision of the Founders is more complex than James Madison--but that is another issue. If the Founders had wanted the filibuster, they would have included it in the document. They were very specific in their discussions about what issues should require super majorities--review their discussions concerning Navigation Acts. Lewis is so typical of the Reactionary Right--they always believe in Original Intent--until they don't. Can't give Democrats a pass on this one. They have played fast and loose with Rule 22 too. If the Founders had wanted paralysis--they would have continued to embrace the Articles of Confederation. But paralysis breeds instability and conflict which they wanted to avoid. To avoid chaos, they wrote a Constitution which was intended to protect minorities, but allow the majority to govern. Time to consign Senate Rule 22 to the trash bin of history where it belongs. Time to govern and be held responsible for decisions.

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canardbusterDec. 7, 13 2:59 PM

Lewis conveniently frets about the "tyranny of the majority," but that is not what the filibuster now represents. What it represents is the tyranny of the minority, and an extreme one at that. If his screed was not riddled with right-wing tropes, what he might have said is what we pragmatists have observed: that both the filibuster and an end to it represent threats to democracy. And, in the end, what those of us in the middle want is fair-minded compromise and not the scorched-earth extremism that the filibuster has come to represent.

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ericjmnDec. 7, 13 3:02 PM

The Senate Republicans were using the filibuster to stop Obama from putting any judges on the "U.S. Court of Appeals for DC." The Republicans said that the judges on the court didn't have enough work to do, as their excuse for stopping the filling of the vacancies. They confirmed people to that court under Bush, though, when the workload was the same. Obama won the election, and appointing judges is a power of US presidents. If you're upset that the filibuster was limited, then blame Senate Republicans.

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twinsajsfDec. 7, 13 3:15 PM

I completely agree, Jason--shame on the GOP forcing this change! The Founding Fathers did not intend for the filibuster to be used as a near daily procedural move in order to prevent the normal functioning of the Government. Presidential nominees being delayed for YEARS without debate or formal vote is a blatant abuse of the filibuster, and forced the Dems at long last to limit this right. A very sad commentary on today's GOP.

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ciamanDec. 7, 13 3:43 PM

St. Paulisbest and Cstoney48 are both of need to remember your own recent history that you love. The Republicans threatened about the filibuster but they did not pull the trigger. It was your be-loved far left Democrats who did the shooting. They did pull the trigger, did they not? Of course they did. Mr. Lewis is so much higher than either of you two that see little but your own lines. I know history too, and the filibuster was added to the Senate rules for good reasons. Just wait until November when you will be in the minority status that you have earned.

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hawkeye56379Dec. 7, 13 4:03 PM

"Mr. Lewis is so much higher than either of you"------- He would almost have to be to write a column like this!

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psc56stribDec. 7, 13 4:05 PM

The founders wrote a constitution that made the Senate a more deliberative body by making the Senator's terms 6 years instead of 2 like in the House. They also gave small states far more power in the Senate than the House by giving each state 2 Senators. The founder's designed the balance of powers inherent in the House/Senate/President/Judiciary structure of government to minimize the 'Tyranny of the Majority' problem. After the failure of the Articles of Confederation, they also wanted a Government that could function. Because of the bipartisan abuses of the filibuster over the last 20 years, all the filibuster tradition does now is prevent the government from functioning. There is nothing sacred about the filibuster - kill it completely.

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chuckdancerDec. 7, 13 5:09 PM

So we have the second phase of the Republican long term plan already going into action. Phase one of course was to render the government unable to function through the near daily use by Republicans of a Senate rule that, if abused to the extreme, allows a few or even one to block any action. Americans have watched and waited while their government stopped working because of the abuse of that rule. The options available to Americans: let the few hold the country hostage indefinitely or modify the scope of the rule. Valuing the interests of the minority, the rule was modestly modified. Phase two is the realm of the well paid Republican propagandists like Jason Lewis who will be relentlessly pushing the political message that abusing the Senate rule and disabling our government was a duty and the essence of patriotism worthy of our Founding Fathers. They will be arguing that since the Democrats were the ones that modified the rule, the only appropriate path for Republicans to follow when they are returned to power is revenge for this atrocity. Revenge to restore the Constitution and the honor of our Founding Fathers. The goal is to reconstitute America in the image and likeness of the Republican elite and favored constituencies. With the modification of a Senate rule Republicans will now proclaim that no action on any subject is out of line to take. Mission accomplished. I can think of a European country that followed a similar path.

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pumiceDec. 7, 13 7:14 PM

From the commentary: "It is hard to say what’s more disturbing. The grotesque Democratic power play in ending the Senate filibuster, or the public’s complacency in going along with it." You forgot a couple of even more disturbing choices, Mr. Lewis: (1) hyperpartisan talking heads who deal in hyperbole and disseminate inaccurate information and (2) the hugely grotesque Republican power play in employing the filibuster so often as to subvert the Founders' vision of a Republic.

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