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Analysis: A ‘talking filibuster’ isn’t going to solve the Senate’s problems

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The goal is simple: to find a middle ground between the liberal left, which wants to get rid of the legislative filibuster completely, and moderate Democrats like Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, who are firmly opposed to doing so.

And it could work! After all, if all 50 Democrats vote for a change to Senate rules on filibuster – and Vice President Kamala Harris breaks the tie – then the change will be made.

But a talking filibuster is just a showcase of the broader problem of the lack of bipartisanship in the Senate. It will not solve the fundamental problem and in fact could further block the work of the chamber.

Start here: the current filibuster system, in which a senator doesn’t have to actually do all the filibuster talking about Mr. Smith to go to Washington to curb attempts to hold final votes on legislation they don’t like – put underway to keep the Senate business moving.

In a series of post-Watergate reforms in the mid-1970s, the Senate agreed to lower the threshold to invoke coagulation, a parliamentary term that means ending the body’s unlimited debate and establishing a final vote on a measure. supermajority (67 senators) up to three-fifths of the chamber (60 senators). But because they believed this measure would increase the number of filibusters, the Senate also established a two-way system.

“A filibuster would stop delaying all Senate business. Instead, the new Senate procedure would create a dual tracking system that would allow the body to switch between different bills so that a bill would face a filibuster was “kept at the bottom” until it was voted This meant that anyone watching the Senate would probably realize that a bill was leaking, as no one had to take the floor and stay on it. This significantly reduced the disincentive to public relations and made it virtually invisible. The talking filibuster was dead; all a senator needed to do was indicate his intention to filibuster to move a bill to the end of the queue or the “back burner “.‘”

If the speaking filibuster was reinstated, it would also be the rule that no other Senate business could be conducted (court confirmations, Cabinet confirmations, etc.) while someone was in the process of filibustering in the chamber. That is, as long as the filibuster can continue, the Senate would be at a complete legislative halt. Nothing could and could not be done.

What then raises this question: how long can a filibuster spend?

While the common perception of the filibuster is that a lone senator keeps his word for as long as they (and their bladder) can stand, it’s not really in Senate rules that only a senator can speak during a filibuster. According to one 2017 Congressional Research Service Report on Rule 19, which governs filibusters:

“Rule XIX places no limit on the length of individual speeches or the number of senators who can speak on a pending issue. However, it tends to limit the possibility of an expanded debate by its provision that” no senator shall speak. more than double on any matter under debate on the same legislative day without the permission of the Senate, which shall be determined without debate. ‘This provision, commonly called the two-speech rule, limits each senator to making two speeches a day, no matter how long each speech, on every debatable issue the Senate considers. A senator who has made two speeches on a single question is not eligible to be recognized for another speech on the same question on the same day. “

So every senator who wanted to participate in a filibuster could speak twice each legislative day. This is not yet easy, as the filibuster group should make someone talk 24 hours a day for as long as they can. It is not entirely out of the question for a few senators to be able to hold the floor for a considerable time. amount of time.

“Depending on how it’s structured (the critical issue, like anything else related to the Senate), a small group of senators could talk for days or even weeks.” posted a Tuesday night tweet, John Bresnahan of Punchbowl News. “How does this approach the reformists? It doesn’t.”

Finally, there’s this: once the filibuster is finished talking, the Democrats would yet they need 60 votes to end the debate and move to a vote. (Unless, of course, they change the filibuster’s legislative rules to allow the closure to be invoked by a simple majority.) So yes, a speaking filibuster would force much more logistical imposition on the senators who participated. But some hoarse, tired-voiced senators aside, I really wouldn’t to change much of anything.

In short: a talking filibuster sounds like an engaging engagement. He evoked, for many Americans, what the filibuster was it should to be. But dig a little deeper and see that the talking filibuster doesn’t have much effect unless it’s accompanied by other Senate rules that, at least for now, seem unlikely to have majority support.

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