Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Limits of the Filibuster: Rand Paul Has Shown Us The Way!

Mother Nature Doesn't Care
Who Filibusters Who
If there is one thing Senator Rand Paul taught the nation with his filibuster last week, it was this:

'Even a US Senator can't beat Mother Nature when She calls!'

No kidding. Talking for 12-hours might seem easy to some loquacious people. But it is not. You have to stand on your feet all the time. You run out of things to talk about. You have to start reading the Bible and the New York phone book into the Congressional Record when you run out of things to say about the topic at hand.

And then Nature Calls.

What is the practical impact of Senator Paul's noble filibuster in the wonderful tradition of Jimmy Stewart in the movie 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington'?

'The Practical Effect should be the end of the logjam that Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leaders have hidden behind for the past 6 years and done nothing about the major problems we face as a nation!'

We don't have the scourge of slavery to conquer in our times. We don't even have the tumultuous civil rights marches and movement of the '60s to contend with. We don't have massive world wars like World War II to deal with like our parents and grandparents did. That was their 'consolation prize' after suffering through the worst economic depression we have seen in America in the last century which makes our recent troubles look like a romp through the playground during kindergarten recess.

Let's face it: We have had it pretty easy. Comparatively so to most previous Americans. Wouldn't you agree?

However, we do have one monstrous thunderstorm building on the horizon that we simply have failed to elect the right leaders to deal with and address: the burgeoning national debt caused by higher-than-annual-inflation rates in health care which push Medicare and Medicare costs in the budget through the roof.

We have to solve that problem now. Today.

And since President Obama is the only President we will have for the next 1413 days; 33,913 hours; or 2,034,788 minutes (in case anyone is counting), he is the only one who can lead the House and the Congress into a 'grand bargain' that will help us solve this huge problem.

Senator Rand Paul has shown us the way that the Senate can be brought along to cooperate in this whole effort to save the republic now, however inadvertently he may have done so.

Here's what he has done for the good of the Republic no matter which side of the political fence you sit:

Rand Paul has shown how toothless the 'dreaded filibuster' really is!

All a filibuster can do is 'delay' a vote on an issue of importance. It can't 'kill' the bill in question. Once a filibuster is done, the President Pro Tem in the Senate, who is a member of the majority party, can then move the previous question or take up some issue that had been delayed by the filibuster and bring it to a vote by the full Senate.  Where 50+1 rules the final outcome. NOT the 60 votes needed to cut off debate.

Why is this important?

Because once the filibuster is 'ended' when Nature calls, there is no need for the 60 votes to 'end' the filibuster, is there?

The main reason why Senators say they 'can't pass a bill because of the 60-vote cloture rule' is because what they really are saying is this:
'I don't want to have my precious time messed up by listening to some hog jowl rant and rave on the Senate floor about an issue I don't care about! I want to pass legislation like we are passing through the take-out window at Wendy's and it better be the issues I want to see passed! Plus it is so much easier to rant and rave myself about the 'injustice' of the minority party holding up proceedings than to actually do the hard work of reforming entitlements and balancing the budgets!
Well, guess what? The US Senate hasn't done a damn thing about reducing federal budget deficits and debt through a thorough revamp and reform of Medicare and Medicaid in at least 40 years now! Certainly not in the last 13 years that we can think of, except only to expand health care costs exponentially in Obamacare.
So what would be the difference between having 1000 filibusters and what they are doing today...which is NOTHING!?
The US Senate used to be known as the 'World's Greatest Deliberative Body'. Now, it is just a Jeopardy answer to the question: 'What is the least effective and efficient part of the US Government today, Alex?'

There can and will be other dilatory tactics that non-serious, un-statesmanlike senators will come up with to avoid doing the job we elect to send them up there to do. Senators such as Harry Reid love to fill the 'Amendment Tree' with hundreds if not thousands of amendments as a way to discourage serious debate on issues we have to face.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) has a pretty good summary of the difficulties the Senate faces today with the current rules of the filibuster. It is worth reading. It shows the length that non-serious people will go to in order to avoid doing their jobs in the best public interest.

Let 'Non-Serious, Gravitas-Challenged Senators' file amendments and start meaningless trivial filibusters and then go through them one-by-one in the light of day for weeks on end on C-SPAN so every constituent can see what truly lackluster leaders they really are. Once they see the clowns they really are, perhaps they will vote all of them out of the office one day when they become the laughingstock of the entire nation, if they haven't already.

In the meantime, call or write your Senators and urge them to call the bluff of every Senator who 'threatens' a filibuster and tell them go ahead and do it. They might not get much done in the first year but the US Senate is built on the concepts of comity and compromise above all else. If 1 person becomes the burr under the saddles of 99 other Senators, you think he/she will get anything they want in legislation, committees or floor time?

Think again.

Senator Strom Thurmond*
 of South Carolina dehydrated himself in a sauna before taking the floor for his historic filibuster against the Civil Rights Act in 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes. He also had a clever catheter system (if a catheter system can be called 'clever') set up whereby he could avoid going to the men's room for that long of a period of time.

But a man has to sleep on top of relieving himself every now and then. Nature will call any current filibustering Senator to task soon enough one way or another.

Let the filibustering games begin.

*Read the full text of Senator Thurmond's 24-hour+ filibuster by clicking on the link above. 
If you just want to read the Thurmond-parts:
1) Pages 16263-16284 cover the beginning of the filibuster until about 2 a.m.
2) Pages 16383-16456 cover 2 a.m. to the end of the filibuster.
3) Pages 16457-16468 cover some of the period in (2)

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