Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ezra Klein explains the filibuster

Writing in the January 28 New Yorker, Ezra Klein explains the filibuster:

There is no perfect measure of how frequently filibusters occur. The closest thing we have to a count is the number of cloture votes the majority mounts. From 1917 to 1970, the majority sought cloture fifty-eight times. Since the start of President Obama’s first term, it has sought cloture more than two hundred and fifty times. Even that is probably in undercount, as it misses all the moments when the majority just gave up on an issue before a vote was melted. The truth, filibuster scholars say, is that almost everything in today’s Senate is effectively filibustered, since at least sixty members have to want to let anything move forward for it to do so. And, in the past thirty years, the only time the party has held or controlled sixty votes out right was in 2009, when the Democrats did for just six months.
And in the Washington Post, Klein writes about today’s Senate “deal” on filibuster reform:
A pro-reform aide I spoke to was agog. “Right now, you have to negotiate with McConnell to get on a bill,” he said. ”Tomorrow, if this passes, you still need to negotiate with McConnell to get on a bill. It changes nothing on how we move forward.”
Klein’s conclusion: “filibuster reformers have lost once again.”

[Cloture: “(in a legislative assembly) a procedure for ending a debate and taking a vote” (New Oxford American Dictionary). The New Yorker piece is for subscribers only.]

comments: 2

Sean said...

"Filibuster" has an etymology that I particularly enjoy. From The Oxford:

ORIGIN late 18th cent.: from French flibustier, first applied to pirates who pillaged the Spanish colonies in the West Indies, ultimately from Dutch vrijbuiter; see freebooter .

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for that, Sean.