Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Filibuster

Both Joyce Appleby and Walter Mondale want to end the Senate filibuster.  Without getting into the weeds, it is sufficient to note that both are interested in making the legislative branch into something more "functional" and more "democratic."  It is irritating that in such issues the constitutional questions are always made into technicalities, while the major issues of what the Constitution is, and what it calls forth in us, are ignored.
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The 'filibuster' is not a constitutional question. There is no provision in the Constitution mandating it. It is a matter of parliamentary rules. It promotes gridlock and political blackmail, which you do not need.

1. The Constitution is a law which delineates a political architecture.

2. It 'calls forth' not a damn thing in us. It is a set of specifications and procedures which are properly adhered to. That is it.

I don't want to be in a position to back Thomas Hart Benton over Henry Clay in an argument over the filibuster. Clay, despite having used it, was against it. However, it is just a parliamentary tool, isn't it? It might be used for good and it might be used to promote something evil. It can be used stifle debate as much as stifling it might do so.

However, until the Republicans regain the Senate, as a practical political matter, don't we want to promote gridlock -- to stall their procedures?

I do not know which 'we' about which you are speaking. Personally, I would like to see Congress enact legislation which improves the quality of public policy. Requiring a supermajority to do so inhibits my goals.


Given that the Republican Party controls the House, it hardly needs the filibuster to inhibit the opposition's agenda. As is, both parties need to work to pass budgets which will reduce the quantum of public sector borrowing. Allowing prima donnas like Sen. Shelby to gum up the works interferes with that.

The filibuster was used in the first Congress. Even among political scientists there is not a consensus that the filibuster produces 'gridlock.' THE determinant is much more whether or not there is divided government.

After the lame-duck session I find that any politician who says he wants to work and work hard on behalf of us strikes fear and dread in me. I want to say, "Please, please, do no more harm, for the love of God." I wish we had seen more gridlock over the last two years. Given government divided as it is now, not much may change over the next two. Given the Republican minority in the Senate, we really might want to keep the filibuster

The articles mentioned above were about the Senate, not the House. It's Appleby who wants to end the filibuster in the Senate. Mondale is not writing about ending the filibuster, but only changing the rules to inhibit its use, as it sometimes abused. Well, it is sometimes abused and his suggestions seem sensible to me. It sounds good to me if they start with "eliminating the secret “holds” that allow senators to block debate anonymously." That sounds darn stupid.

1. I think it was the 8th or 9th Congress, around about 1806.

2. SInce neither the majority nor the minority can enact legislation, the body is gridlocked.

So it follows that the filibuster is the cause? I mean, I understand that the filibuster plays a role, but I remain unconvinced that the difference between a productive and idle Congress lies solely therein, especially in light of how old the rule is.

And who is to say that its removal ensures an improvement in the quality of public policy? It ensures a greater degree of change in public policy, but that is it.

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