Has anyone out there seen this cartoon about “Phil A. Buster”? I am not sure which is worse:
(1) the factual implications that the Founders instituted the filibuster and that it has “worked pretty well for 200 years”;
(2) the apparent assertion that eliminating a procedural rule signals the death knell for our Constitutional structure; or
(3) the condescension that the cartoon shows toward its target audience.
Beginning with the third concern, I have a question. Why would anyone think it is appropriate to use a cartoon to explain their opposition to changing a procedural rule? I am fairly certain that most of us are capable of understanding the arguments for and against the use of filibusters without resorting to caricatures such as “Checks and Balanz.” Cartoons should not take the place of serious constitutional or practical arguments.
As for the former concerns, although the cartoon generally avoids making rebuttable factual assertions, the clear implications are that the Founders instituted the filibuster and that it is central to the separation of powers. Both of these implications are false. First, the filibuster is not in the Constitution and was not used for decades following the founding of the country. In fact, the current rule is only a few decades old. Second, the filibuster has hardly “worked pretty well,” unless, like Senator Byrd, one considers talking for 14 hours in order to block civil rights legislation to be a public good. Contrary to current comparisons to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” the filibuster has a less-than-honorable history and, as law professor Jonathan Turley recently noted in USA today, it “is unabashedly and undeniably anti-democratic.”
None of this, of course, tells us whether the rule should or should not be changed. However, if someone has a principled defense of using unlimited debate to prevent Senate floor votes on nominees who could get as many as 58 or 59 votes, I would like to hear it.