Ending the Filibuster: Be Careful What You Ask For

Today, no vote can take place in the Senate on substantive issues unless three-fifths of the Senate vote for cloture, ending debate on the matter.  The image of a single senator -- Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington -- holding the floor in a lonely battle against bossism is iconic in American culture.  The filibuster is not a constitutional issue; it is simply part of the Senate rules.  Prior to Woodrow Wilson, debate in the Senate, by rule, had been unlimited.  This meant, in theory, that one senator could hold up proceedings in that body indefinitely.  (In practice, though, a filibuster required several senators to work.) Proposals to water the requirements of cloture down more have floated around for years.  The majority, quite naturally, tends to favor tightening cloture, while the minority insists that filibusters are an important check on steamrolling legislation or judicial appointments.  Republicans, when President Bush was...(Read Full Article)

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