Obama was for the filibuster in 2005

Suddenly, Democrats are all upset with the filibuster now that Republicans are using it.  At least some Democrats say it is time to end it.  That is not quite what they were saying when Democrats were using the filibuster to stop President Bush's judicial appointments.  At least one Senator, Barack Obama, was quite in favor of the filibuster in 2005 when it was used to stop nine of Bush's appointments, including Miguel Estrada and Janice Rogers Brown.

In 2005 I contacted my then-Senator, Barack Obama, regarding the filibuster.  I asked Senator Obama about his views of the filibuster, especially since it was used to block many civil rights laws, including anti-lynching laws.  (I cannot reproduce my original message, since it was not an email.  The only way to contact Senator Obama online was to go to his web site and fill in an online form that left no copy.)

Below is his response.

From: senator_obama@obama.senate.gov [mailto:senator_obama@obama.senate.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2005 11:02 AM
To: Hoven, Randall M
Subject: Message from Senator Barack Obama

Dear Randall:

Thank you for your letter. I appreciate hearing from you.

I recognize that the filibuster can be used for unfortunate purposes. However, I am also aware that the Founding Fathers established the filibuster as a means of protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority -- and that protection, with some changes, has been in place for over 200 years.

In regard to your reference to Judge Brown, I voted against her confirmation because I believe her record on the California State Supreme Court raised real questions about her commitment to individual rights and civil liberties. I spoke on the Senate floor about this nomination before the votes were cast, and the following weblink will take you directly to my remarks:

http://obama.senate.gov/speech/050608-remarks_of_us_senator_barack_obama_on_the_nomination_
of_justice_janice_rogers_brown/index.html

Again, Randall, thank you for writing. Please stay in touch.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator


P.S. Our system does not allow direct response to this email. However, if you would like to contact me again, please use the form on the website: http://obama.senate.gov/contact/


Senator Obama did not quite have his history correct. In 2009, Time Magazine summarized the history of the filibuster. The filibuster came about inadvertently from a change in Senate rules in 1806. The first filibuster was not until 1841. Both years are considered to be well after the country's founding. There were fewer than two dozen filibusters through all the 19th century. "By the Carter Administration, that figure was up to 20 per year."

Note that when Obama wrote me in 2005, the filibuster was technically in place for 199 years (since 1806) and had first been used just 164 years ago. So in no case had the filibuster "been in place for over 200 years."

In short, if we are to believe Time Magazine's history lesson, Senator Obama made two false statements (at least) in his response to this constituent: (1) our Founding Fathers did not establish the filibuster, and (2) it had not been in place for over 200 years when Obama made the statement that it was.

Regardless of these errors, we (or at least I) have Barack Obama on record as firmly supporting the filibuster in the Senate.

By the way, I vow that the above email from Senator Obama is exactly as I received it.


Suddenly, Democrats are all upset with the filibuster now that Republicans are using it.  At least some Democrats say it is time to end it.  That is not quite what they were saying when Democrats were using the filibuster to stop President Bush's judicial appointments.  At least one Senator, Barack Obama, was quite in favor of the filibuster in 2005 when it was used to stop nine of Bush's appointments, including Miguel Estrada and Janice Rogers Brown.

In 2005 I contacted my then-Senator, Barack Obama, regarding the filibuster.  I asked Senator Obama about his views of the filibuster, especially since it was used to block many civil rights laws, including anti-lynching laws.  (I cannot reproduce my original message, since it was not an email.  The only way to contact Senator Obama online was to go to his web site and fill in an online form that left no copy.)

Below is his response.

From: senator_obama@obama.senate.gov [mailto:senator_obama@obama.senate.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2005 11:02 AM
To: Hoven, Randall M
Subject: Message from Senator Barack Obama

Dear Randall:

Thank you for your letter. I appreciate hearing from you.

I recognize that the filibuster can be used for unfortunate purposes. However, I am also aware that the Founding Fathers established the filibuster as a means of protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority -- and that protection, with some changes, has been in place for over 200 years.

In regard to your reference to Judge Brown, I voted against her confirmation because I believe her record on the California State Supreme Court raised real questions about her commitment to individual rights and civil liberties. I spoke on the Senate floor about this nomination before the votes were cast, and the following weblink will take you directly to my remarks:

http://obama.senate.gov/speech/050608-remarks_of_us_senator_barack_obama_on_the_nomination_
of_justice_janice_rogers_brown/index.html

Again, Randall, thank you for writing. Please stay in touch.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator


P.S. Our system does not allow direct response to this email. However, if you would like to contact me again, please use the form on the website: http://obama.senate.gov/contact/


Senator Obama did not quite have his history correct. In 2009, Time Magazine summarized the history of the filibuster. The filibuster came about inadvertently from a change in Senate rules in 1806. The first filibuster was not until 1841. Both years are considered to be well after the country's founding. There were fewer than two dozen filibusters through all the 19th century. "By the Carter Administration, that figure was up to 20 per year."

Note that when Obama wrote me in 2005, the filibuster was technically in place for 199 years (since 1806) and had first been used just 164 years ago. So in no case had the filibuster "been in place for over 200 years."

In short, if we are to believe Time Magazine's history lesson, Senator Obama made two false statements (at least) in his response to this constituent: (1) our Founding Fathers did not establish the filibuster, and (2) it had not been in place for over 200 years when Obama made the statement that it was.

Regardless of these errors, we (or at least I) have Barack Obama on record as firmly supporting the filibuster in the Senate.

By the way, I vow that the above email from Senator Obama is exactly as I received it.