The Filibuster
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Law and Politics

The Filibuster

Is it dead?

WHAT IT IS

  • A filibuster is a method for the minority party to prevent the majority from passing legislation they don’t agree with.1

  • Senators use a filibuster to delay or stop voting on a bill or law through prolonged speeches or other obstructive actions.16

There are two ways to end a filibuster:

  • The Senate could end filibuster when 60 Senate members vote on a cloture.2 3
  • The “nuclear” option: only “simple majority” (51 votes) is required to approve Senate action.4 10

LONGEST FILIBUSTERS

IN HISTORY

1. Strom Thurmond (D-SC)

24 hours, 18 minutes

Aug. 28, 1957

2. Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY)

23 hours, 30 minutes

Oct. 17, 1986

3. Wayne Morse (I-OR)

22 hours, 26 minutes

Apr. 24, 1953

4. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

21 hours, 19 minutes

Sep. 24, 2013

WHY IT MATTERS

 

Use of the filibuster has grown over the past 40 years10, with some believing it has helped grow partisanship and the differences between the two parties. Many are questioning if the practice should be eliminated from congressional practice.

DOWN WITH

THE FILIBUSTER!

Time waster

Some believe the practice is inefficient. Senator Harry Reid called Senator Ted Cruz’s 2013 filibuster attempt to prevent funding for the Affordable Care Act “a big waste of time”.5

  • Watch: Cruz read Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham6 

  • Watch: Cruz reference Darth Vader7

Abused

Some believe flibusters are used too often and have made action on routine legislative issues difficult.8

 

 

Unconstitutional

The filibuster is not a part of the U.S. Constitution and some believe it is therefore unconstitutional.9

KEEP THE FILIBUSTER!

Control the power

The filibuster serves as another form of checks and balances to ensure one party doesn’t have all the power.11 Some feel it is important to remain.

 

 

Bipartisanship

Some believe a filibuster can help progress towards a mutual deal between the two parties. Some believe that killing the filibuster ends the debate too early, and causes extreme partisanship.12 

 

 

Prevents extremism

Some believe filibustering can help prevent radical or extreme legislation, as well as undesirable appointments for government positions.13

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Some see the nuclear option as the “death” of the filibuster.14

  • Democrats used the filibuster to delay President Trump's pick for Supreme Court Justice, Judge Neil Gorsuch. He was eventually confirmed on April 7, 2017.15

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Is the unprecedented use of going nuclear for Supreme Court nominees going to have long-term effects on filibustering?

  • Does the practice of filibustering actually create more discord and partisanship?

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Key Vocabulary