Why the Senate filibuster?


Post #161, Bob McKnight's Florida Blog


"Senator, a bill should be very hard to pass for optimal democratic governance. Sort of less is more."


Former Florida Senate President Jerry Thomas (D., Jupiter)



One of today's arguments in Washington D.C. is on the Filibuster. That is the exclusive right of a U.S. Senator to continue talking on the floor to block consideration of a vote on a bill by the full Senate. The Senator is not required to actually speak on the floor in a Filibuster, but President Biden, a former Senator for 36 years wants to require speaking. In any event, Cloture, to stop a Filibuster requires 60 votes, or 3/5 of the total Senate.


The argument for the Filibuster is that it gives extraordinary power of each Senator regardless of whether they are members of the Majority or Minority Party. Arguments against the Filibuster are that it slows or stops consideration of a bill based on only one Senator, without regard to the Majority. The Filibuster is unique to the federal government, and generally not found in State Legislatures.


Unanimous Consent is another typical U. S. Senate privilege for every Senator which does the same thing as the Filibuster--grant extraordinary powers to any Senator regardless of party. We often hear of confirmation of Judges held up by one Senator from the state of that Judge. Senators have been known to hold up appointments for retribution, spite, and even money. The process needs to be monitored very carefully by the members as well as a free and tenacious press for protection of a democracy.


The Filibuster is particularly controversial now because the vote in the Senate is 50-50 with the Vice President breaking the tie vote for the Democrats. The Republican Minority Leader in the Senate warns of further disruptions if the Democrats insist on eliminating the Filibuster. The House is known for the generation of legislation, including all important tax bills, but the smaller body is more stoic and conservative, so stopping bills is considered fitting for the senate.


Having served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate at the state level, I tend to concur with the U.S., Republican position on these parliamentary tactics. For true checks and balances, we need both parties having clout. We sometimes forget what former Florida Senate President Jerry Thomas, Democrat then of Jupiter once told me, "Senator, a bill should be very hard to pass for optimal democratic governance. Sort of less is more." With all Senators having extraordinary power to govern, builds in a cleansing safeguard for the process.


Senator Thomas was right.

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