The potential for a filibuster springs from the notion that any senator should be able speak as long as he wants on any issue. When a senator decides to abuse this liberty to block the people’s constitutional operations, his right to speak becomes a filibuster, an act of piracy from the Spanish filibustero.
And piracy it is. This skull and crossbones have hung over our republic long enough. They weaken Congress so that the branch of our government with the power of the purse cannot control the nation’s debt.
The wanton pirating of open debate has become so bizarre that, recently, the surviving minority of Democratic senators used the filibuster to undermine congressional authority itself. By using the filibuster to thwart the Senate’s vote on legislation to override President Obama’s illegal use of Executive actions, Congress’s authority was utterly undermined. The people’s representatives in both houses of Congress have been completely silenced! Even if the House defunds the Department of Homeland Security, Obama’s executive actions remain in place. The only way for Congress to retake its authority is to end the push-button filibuster and put a bill on Obama’s desk.
There is nothing honorable about the filibuster. Emerging in the Old South as a bludgeon to slow racial equality, the “noble” history of the filibuster includes its metastasis into the current “push-button” filibuster. The “push-button” filibuster or “gentleman’s filibuster” can, in turn, be directly connected to the increase in the public debt. Beyond the legislative culture of selfish irresponsibility and arrogance common to both the deficit and the increased domination of the filibuster, the filibuster ties congress’ hands. Because of the Senate filibuster, congress can’t properly cut departments that the people know are failing. Even worse new legislation costs the taxpayers extra money in private, minority, pet projects that must be included in any bill passing through the Senate’s filibuster gauntlet. All of this increases the cost of getting anything done in congress at all.
Obama’s use of illegal executive orders, contrary to the will of the people, has completely ripped asunder the cloak of congressional authority and has demonstrated for the world to see that the organ of the people’s voice, it’s elected representatives, has become, feeble, hollow, and docile.
The gentleman’s filibuster has been around since the U.S. Senate revised Rule 22 in 1975. From that time forward, no senator needed to speak for a filibuster to be in force. Today, one simply files a motion. Since 1975, then, a filibuster has no longer been a filibuster, an abuse of the constitutional liberty of free speech; instead, it has become simply an abuse of the constitution. Rule 22’s revision made it slightly easier to attain cloture and move legislation, but Rule 22 made it much, much easier to enact a filibuster. It is not surprising, then, that since the enactment of Rule 22, the number of filibusters has sky-rocketed.
The senate should be returned to the rules of filibuster made popular in the old black and white movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Because the push-button filibuster focuses final legislative authority in the hands of a small group of minority legislators, a larger number of votes must be “purchased” by the majority. These minority votes must vote against the will of their own constituents for the bill to pass. As a result they need bigger gifts to give their home states. Hence legislation is more expensive than it would be in a simple majority setting. Additionally, the last votes to break a filibuster are infamously expensive.
Consider the Obamacare debacle as an example of this rampant irresponsible lack of conscience. Liberal senators cashed in on their fellow liberal members. For instance, Senator Patrick Leahy’s vote took 250 million in legislative concessions; and Louisiana’s traded her Senate Seat for 100 million in concessions (some say 300 million); or Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, — 100 million; or Senator Ben Nelson (Mr. “to infinity and beyond” himself), –45 million; or the very independent Senator Sanders, (advancing communism in health care is not enough) — 10 billion in heath care centers. Nor does time allow us to speak of ex-Senators now lobbyists, of defense contracts and air bus bids, of nepotism and Caribbean resorts, of bankers, loans and bailouts. Even worse these are CBO numbers. Nelson’s deal sounds like it is worth far more than 45 million. The public option in the senate bill expands Medicaid through Medicare’s destruction.
But consider this price tag! Some may call these bribes, others may call these deals the guts of the legislative “sausage,” others may say all of this is only wily negotiators seeking the best interest of their states, but, no matter what we call it, in one week of Obamacare legislation, the gentleman’s filibuster cost us, the tax payer over eleven billion dollars. It is not surprising then to note that the modern peace time rise in the ratio of the national debt to GDP directly parallels the increasing use of the push-button, gentleman’s filibuster.
The traditional filibuster rule, while also concentrating power with a small group of legislators, had the redeeming quality of requiring one to put one’s character and constitution behind one’s belief. A weak and venal person cannot long harangue an assembly of his peers. Besides, the drama of such a filibuster today would draw the press and make a spectacle of our public policies. This makes for a far more entertaining newscast and for a sword of daylight that cuts (or at least used to cut) against corruption.
Today, the push-button filibuster is rendering congress useless. The huge majority surge that swept the congress from the Democrats has been completely halted in the senate by the push-button filibuster. The House can refuse to fund the Department of Homeland Security, but that will not neutralize President Obama’s illegal executive actions. Perhaps it’s possible to save general legislative filibuster’s by the majority ruling that only filibuster’s of executive actions under judicial review are unconstitutional, but the truth is–who cares. End the monstrosity now. End it forever.
If history has taught us that absolute power in the hands of single monarchs is a wretched evil, it now seems she is
liberally instructing her students that matters are even worse when such centralized authority falls on small numbers of men scrabbling for crumbs at the trough of the taxpayer. There seems to be a mathematical certainty that, in small packs, many will be weak, others spineless, and still others corrupt; that while virtue is the aspiration of man it is not his nature. Hence, the surest way to move the pack is to appeal to its vilest instincts. Even in better days it was the exception, not the rule, that an appeal to reason, virtue and the public good might win a legislative victory. Let the simple majority stand before the people with their drab excuses for their lack of performance. Let them no longer have the vail of the filibuster to hide their personal failures.