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Judi's avatar

What do you think the repercussions would be if the Republicans were forced to actually filibuster?

Asked by Judi (39850points) November 8th, 2009

In this age of 24 hour news, what do you think the repercussions would be if a filibuster was threatened and the democrats called their bluff, making them argue in the senate for hours and days on end? Who would be hurt the most?

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16 Answers

jgalfer's avatar

I don’t think they can filibuster. So, it’s irrelevant.

Judi's avatar

Not necessarily. And Health Care is only one issue. There is still more work to do in the in our government.

Mamradpivo's avatar

They would never do it. Every democrat running for the next decade would use the footage of some republican jerk trying to protect the insurance industry instead of providing assistance to the people of their state.

Judi's avatar

@jgalfer ; Welcome to fluther:-)

jgalfer's avatar

Yeah, I agree with Mam. Plus, again, they have to have enough numbers to not have a filibuster blocked and they don’t. So, they can’t physically filibuster the health issue. If they wanted to filibuster another issue, the probably could, but the Republicans are so far up shit creek, it doesn’t really matter what they do, it will most likely be perceived as bad.

jgalfer's avatar

@Judi Thanks. I know the founders. ;) Just haven’t participated yet.

Dog's avatar

@jgalfer I too want to welcome you to the collective. You will find this an awesome community to learn in.

janbb's avatar

It’s my understanding that the rule is that the Dems need 60 votes in order to block the possibility of a filibuster. If they have less than that, there can be a filibuster and then an up or down vote eventually. It seems to me that in the last decade or so, there has been more of a focus on getting the 60 votes rahther than just letting legislation be filibustered and eventually passed by a simple majority. i don’t really understand the reason for this procedural change and think it would be better to let it occur. There is also something procedural called budget reconciliation whereby they can pass a bill on a simple majority.

Judi's avatar

@janbb ; the budget reconciliation Is after both Houses of Congress have passed their bills and they “reconcile” them to make one bill that is adopted. (I think.)

janbb's avatar

@Judi But I’ve read there is a way they can use budget reconciliation to get a simple up or down vote in the Senate. I’ll see if I can suss it out.

Judi's avatar

Where’s @dalepetrie when we need him?

Michael's avatar

A few answers to some outstanding (in both senses of the word) questions…

First, @jgalfer is technically correct when he says that there are not enough GOP senators to sustain a filibuster. However, if all it takes is one Democratic (or independent) senator to side with the GOP for there to be enough senators to carry out a filibuster. Given the fact that there are some relatively conservative members of the Democratic caucus (both Senator Nelsons for example), it is not inconceivable that the GOP could lead a successful filibuster on certain issues or bills.

Second, actually “making them filibuster” wouldn’t look like what you think it would look like. You probably have in your head the idea of dozens of mostly old white men standing up there in the Senate reading from the telephone book. Actually, it would look like a mostly empty senate, with nothing going on. Because of the Senate’s rules, all a filibuster would look like is a never-ending series of quorum calls, where the parliamentarian goes down the list of Senators with everyone saying “present.” There’s not much good political theater in that, which is probably why the Democrats don’t bother forcing the GOP to do it.

Finally, some quick clarification on reconciliation. Reconciliation can only happen once a year, as part of the annual budget process. The law that governs the Congressional budget process includes the option of passing the “budget” through reconciliation which cannot be filibustered. Other things can go into reconciliation but they have to pertain closely to the budget. President Bush passed most of his tax cuts through reconciliation (that’s why the name of all the tax cuts, EGTRRA, JGTRRA, TIPRA, all end in RA – it stands for ‘reconciliation act’). Some parts of the health care reform might be possible to pass through reconciliation, but not all – which is why its only a last resort for the Dems.

Judi's avatar

yeah, @dalepetrie is here!

dalepetrie's avatar

@Judi – Well, I’m here…I was expecting a big controversy when I saw your PM, but good to know things are civil.

Yes, my understanding, and I haven’t read @janbb‘s link, but I’m assuming Reconciliation is the name for the Parliamentary procedure where the party in power can invoke this particular rule before something goes up for a vote, which would allow them to just call for an up or down vote on it, majority rules. Every time the spectre of this looms however, it kind of becomes one of those “dont’ go there” situations, because the party in power realizes that eventually they will be out of power, and this is a way to completely stiffle minority opinion. There is a reason legistlation can’t be enacted as standard operating procedure by majority rule, the founding fathers were smart enough to realize that just because most of the people don’t agree with it, doesn’t mean it’s wrong, or vice versa. Perfect example in today’s society is gay rights, allowing gay couples to have the same LEGAL rights (not the same religious recognition) as any straight couple who wants to sign a contract together to share property, survivorship, etc. rights….the majority of people (though the ratio is quickly shrinking and by all estimates will be upside down with in 10 years) still don’t approve of allowing gays to marry, so when you get legislation about gay marriage rights, often (as it has in many states) it will pass the legislature, despite the fact that months later when it’s put on the election ballot for the people to decided, majority rules, on an up or down vote, these rights get taken away. There are very good reasons why preserving minority opinion and allowing them to have a dissenting voice and some degree of power is a good idea. On the other hand, I really doubt if the founding fathers ever envisioned a day when one side was beligerently opposed lock step to everything the other side wanted, unwiling to even consider the ideas of the other side, and willing to take a contrarian position, just to see the other side fail as we have today. But I recall a few years ago when Bush was in office and he had a mjority in both houses, he wanted to call for a vote on something, I forget what the issue even was, and Republicans knew they couldn’t get to 60 votes, so they threatened to invoke an up or down procedural vote. As much as I did not want the legislation to pass, my bigger concern was that this was really bad for our Democracy to start to go down a majority rule path. And I even wrote my then Republican Senator, who was as always 100% lock step with the Republican agenda, and told him that as a constituent and an American, it’s unimportant what I think about the bill itself, but that it was a really bad idea in my view to force an up or down vote, because if they set the precedent, as soon as they were out of power, they could expect the other side to do the same thing, and I felt it was important to have all points of view represented. Well, I’m pretty sure I got a form letter saying he disagreed with me, but as I recall, they didn’t do it. Now the tables are turned and some still think we should do this. I didn’t think we should when it would have resulted in a bad thing, and I don’t think we should do it now when it would result in a good thing, because I take a longer view on this.

Anyway, back to a fillibuster. To be honest, consider this. Republicans have been increasingly lock step with each other, which seems to me a trend which has always been rooted in Republican tradition…the Conservative mindset, and I don’t say this to be disparraging, I simply think this is a statement which is supported by a ton of factual information, is driven by loyalty. This means that if your President (as long as he’s of your party) wants something, you should go along with him. And I believe they dole out dire consequences to those who don’t cooperate, so there has always been a lot of pressure on rank and file Republicans to put up a unified front on every issue. Now in the past, some Republicans have seemed to value what their own conscience tells them more so than what party loyalty tells them, but starting in about 1994 with the Republican takeover of both houses and Newt’s “Contract with America”, I think Republicans began to become more and more bold, they thought they could beat Clinton in ‘96, and they tried to work with him up to that point, but once he won, the gloves came off, to the point that being a Republican meant impeaching a sitting President for lying about something in his personal (not professional life), a question which they never should have been able to ask in the first place…it was essentially entrapment, lying was bad, but telling the truth was personally destructive, and it was no onger about accomplishing things through a spirit of bipartisanship, it was about destryoing one’s enemies and again, being lock step, no matter how stubborn you had to be, no matter what your personal opinion was, if you were a Republican, you voted as such, period, and if you didn’t, your own party would turn against you. And with Bush, ,it just got worse and worse, to the piont where now it’s copmletely part of teh culture of what it is to be a Republican, if the Dems want it, it’s bad, everything the Dems want is destructive to our very way of life….everything threatens our freedom, we must say no.

Now consider how Dems deal with dissent. We have a President who set the xample that says we really SHOULD strive for bi-partisanship, we SHOULD listen to every opinion, see it from every angle, and not act hastily. And in my view, that’s correct, but when the other side doesn’t agree, doesn’t play by that rule book, it’s hard to get anything done unless you are willing to quash dissent, which is a completely un-Democratic concept. And in a world where Dems are just by and large trying to do what they think is the right thing and they’re still being accused of everything from being Nazis to instituting death panels for old people, it’s not inconceivable that there could be an outright uprising if Dems push too hard to get their way. So, it’s just not in the Dems’ nature to be lock step on an issue…for one reason or another, some of the 60 votes that the Dems conceivably have are not reliable, and any issue. Think about the one Dem who most famously outright betrayed his own side…Joe Lieberman, he CAMPAIGNED for the opposition, and he STILL has his leadership posts. Why? Well, because we were trying to get to 60, even though 60 is MEANINGLESS if you’re not willing (or able) to whip your party in line.

So, where does that leave us? Well, if Dems invoke procedural rules, they win, but at what cost? Not one they’re willing to pay (nor should they be), because Dems have become adept politicians, but what they don’t seem to realize is that the definition of politics, which used to be “you scratch my back, I scratch yours,” has changed while they weren’t looking to “fuck you, I’m going for broke.” So that leaves us with a situation where Republicans are willing to do whatever it takes to win, Dems are willing to go only so far. So, to finally answer the question, if Dems were to actually force a filibuster, rather than just do what they ALWAYS do and table the discussion, here’s what would happen. Republicans would pretty much GLADLY block any work from getting done in Congress for a MONTH, they’d piss and shit themselves, they’d shoot cocaine into their nutsacks to stay awak…WHATEVER IT TAKES. Dems would fold. Now, I would still LIKE to see them do it, because I think once push came to shove, it might actually make a few Republicans to decide this obstinance for obstinance sake just isn’t worth the toll on their personal psyches and it might break this spell that’s been over them for 15 years now that says it’s wholly unacceptable to try to cooperate with the other side under any circumstances. And it would be funny for me to watch. But in thse short term, it’s probably a game the Republicans are poised to win. Again, the option is there so if people really feel passionately about something but are in the minority, they can maintain a voice in governance, but again, it was envisioned that this option (fillibuster) would be used WHEN people actually felt passionately about an issue, not just to be loyal to the party and obstructionist to the opposition. But the whole idea of politics (which is a perversion of reality in the first place) has been perverted even further by the Republican orthodoxy, and we’re either going ot have to find a way to restore civility and discourse to lawmaking, or the Dems are going to have to adopt a take not prisoner’s attitude and force a final showdown once and for all to see who has the bigger dick.

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