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Argument: Filibuster hamstrings the productive passage of legislation

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Paul Krugman. "A dangerous dysfunction." New York Times. December 20th, 2009: "After all, Democrats won big last year, running on a platform that put health reform front and center. In any other advanced democracy this would have given them the mandate and the ability to make major changes. But the need for 60 votes to cut off Senate debate and end a filibuster — a requirement that appears nowhere in the Constitution, but is simply a self-imposed rule — turned what should have been a straightforward piece of legislating into a nail-biter. And it gave a handful of wavering senators extraordinary power to shape the bill.

Now consider what lies ahead. We need fundamental financial reform. We need to deal with climate change. We need to deal with our long-run budget deficit. What are the chances that we can do all that — or, I’m tempted to say, any of it — if doing anything requires 60 votes in a deeply polarized Senate?"


Elliot Richardson. "The Case Against the Senate Filibuster". 2005: "If the Senate operated by majority rule, Congress would have passed a campaign finance reform law last year. It also would have adopted the first major telecommunications reform law in 50 years, reined in the giveaway of taxpayer-owned gold to private mining companies and perhaps adopted a compromise health-care reform.

Each of these bills was killed in Congress because a filibuster frenzy has made majority rule the exception rather than the rule in the Senate. Filibusters also took place on school funding, toxic-waste cleanup and other legislation.

When senators filibuster, using parliamentary tactics to block the Senate from voting, they turn democracy on its head. Since the Senate's current rule require three-fifths of the Senate to break a filibuster, 41 members can hold the Senate hostage, even if 59 are ready to take action. The majority must either allow the bill to die, or pay whatever legislative ransom is demanded -- sometimes a multimillion dollar handout for a senator's favorite college or highway, sometimes changes in policy.

The issue is not whether we are for or against whatever bill is the filibuster's victim. There are times when a nation's future may depend on whether its citizens can rise above policy differences and take a stand for democracy. This is such a time. At stake is our government's ability to make decisions and take action.

The issue is not whether we are for or against whatever bill is the filibuster's victim. There are times when a nation's future may depend on whether its citizens can rise above policy differences and take a stand for democracy. This is such a time. At stake is our government's ability to make decisions and take action.

That is why I and 25 of our nation's most respected leaders -- both Republicans like former Sens. Barry Goldwater, Charles McC. Mathias and Robert Stafford and Democrats like former Sens. William Proxmire, Birch Bayh and Gaylord Nelson -- have launched the Action, Not Gridlock campaign to sound an alarm. A filibuster frenzy gravely threatens our government's ability to act to meet the nation's pressing challenges."


Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). "There is no reform more important to this country and to this body than slaying the dinosaur called the filibuster. We need to change it so that we can really get back to what our Founding Fathers envisioned - a process whereby the minority can slow things down, debate them, but not kill things outright.'"[1]


"Twilight Zone Filibusters." The New York Times. Editorial. July 19, 2007: "The nation’s anguish over the Iraq war was kept on hold in the Senate yesterday as the Republican minority maintained serial threats of filibuster to buy time for President Bush’s aimless policies. Last week, the House debated and voted along party lines for a timetable for an American troop withdrawal by next spring. But a similar measure was allowed no such decisive expression in the Senate. Instead, the G.O.P. insisted on the approval of a “supermajority” of 60 of 100 senators before putting to a vote a measure that would apply real pressure on the president to shift his disastrous course in Iraq."


Ezra Klein. "Debate the filibuster. The filibuster would want it that way." The American Prospect. February 17th, 2009: "I’d argue that the central question is 'legitimacy.' We have a party-based electoral system that, particularly in the Senate, pushes towards a relatively even division of power. The question then becomes whether we’re more comfortable with the consequences of a system where the minority can block good policy or the majority can pass bad policy. I’d prefer the latter: The policies of politicians we voted for have more democratic legitimacy than the system’s structural preference for inaction. Elections should be about the bills passed by the majority rather than the obstructions erected by the minority."


Ryan Grim. "Keep The Filibuster, Say Dem Senators". Huffington Post. February 11, 2009: "Needing sixty votes in the Senate to move legislation forward is not only an anachronism, critics argue, but it gets in the way of progressive change. It creates sloppy centrist legislation at the whim of senators like Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME). The trimmed-down stimulus is their exhibit A."

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