Democrats just killed the painless fillabuster

And moved immediately to confirmation of appointments.

Long overdue, in my opinion. Time to take the gloves off and face the conservatives on their own terms. He who lives by the procedural game shall die by the procedural game.


is there a link that can explain this better for the politically impaired among us?

When you think of a filibuster, you probably think of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington or more recently Wendy Davis in Texas filibustering their abortion law. A politician standing at a podium talking for hours to delay a vote on something. I think they still have the option to do that kind of filibuster. What they used to be able to do until this recent rule change was simply declare that they were filibustering something without having to do the whole standing and talking thing. They didn’t even have to do it in Congress, they could just send an email and block a vote from happening.


Clarification: They’ve killed it specifically for presidential appointments below the level of Supreme Court. (In other words, all the let’s-just-get-the-job-done people.) Other measures can still be protested.

Works for me. There’s a limited amount of damage that can be done by those appointments, assuming the appointee is competent – and a straight up/down vote is enough to sanity-check competence, or should be. (Modulo folks like Helluva Job Brownie who simply don’t want to do the jobs they were appointed to.)


Well, even though I too celebrate this development, we should acknowledge the fact that many of these sub-Supreme Court judgeships are still for life. It don’t bother me none, but Eric Posner over at Slate bemoans the (in his mind) likelihood that we’ll just end up with more polarizing and extremist judicial nominees from both sides of the spectrum, depending on who has the simple 51-seat majority at the moment.

Still, the appliance of the filibuster as a tool for the minority to use in extreme cases when the majority overreaches to the actual detriment of actual people… well, that’s been so sorely abused by the GOP in the last decade that something had to give.

I will be honest and say the Democrats have also misused the filibuster [*] in the past. It’s one of the rules which sorta begs to be abused. Yes, I know, there’s always a risk of the majority riding roughshod over the minority… but I’m not convinced that the filibuster actually did much to improve things.

[* Firefox claims that’s the correct spelling. I’ll believe it.]


The filibuster had its uses, when both sides of the chamber would respect the institution and its tools. But the chart next to Schumer at the top of Posner’s article is illuminating when one considers why even a traditionally filibuster-loving Dem like Harry Reid would be moved to get rid of it, at least when it comes to appointments.

1 Like

Note that this possibility has been known for a very long time, but neither side saw fit to add a clause to the rules requiring a higher percentage to approve a rules change. This was going to happen sooner or later, and the right knew they were running the risk of provoking it when they went into “Party of No” mode. Yes, it’s a two-edged sword, but it’s unclear that uncorking this genie could make things much worse than they’ve already become, and it may at least let the government start doing a bit more of what we’re paying it to do.

(The Republicans hate taxes, but seem to have no problem with waste these days.)

1 Like

The protestations from the wounded, oh so mortally wounded, conservatives is worth the purchase of the delicious popcorn i have prepared for this occasion.



I am really split on this issues–the republicans, especially the tea party wing has obviously been using these tactics to their political advantage. I saw a chart recently that shows the number of uses of this has gone way up, meaning something like more than in the previous 60 years combined. However, there is backlash to consider, and the fact that the dems used similar tactics.

So. yeah.


I’m not too worried about the backlash. The Dems would face backlash for doing anything other than just lying down and taking it, as is their usual habit. And though the Democrats certainly used the filibuster, I don’t believe they abused it in an effort to do whatever they could in a not-at-all veiled effort to prevent the opposition party from getting any governance whatsoever done.

The way I see it, Reid had to balance the benefits of retaining the filibuster option for the chance the Dems might feel the need to employ it the next time they’re in the minority, against the mounting costs of what the GOP has done with it. The filibuster tool has simply become too obstructive to keep in the toolbox. We’ll probably have occasion to miss it if the GOP retakes the Senate majority, but our polarized system seems to be ill-suited for the genteel parliamentary tools of the last century.


I will be honest and say the Democrats have also misused the filibuster [*] in the past.

Or we can talk about exactly how much the filibuster was used by each party:
CHARTS: Why The Filibuster May Soon Be Dead

And to be honest, anything that makes “centrists” mourn makes me chuckle.


This topic was automatically closed after 1184 days. New replies are no longer allowed.