Steffen Schmidt, IAFC Blogger
Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, WNYC blogger, and chief Political correspondent of Insider Iowa.
Much of Congressional work has ground to a halt this session because there have not been enough votes to pass legislation. That’s not just because the Republicans have a robust majority in the House and the Democrats have an anemic majority in the Senate. Its also because of the filibuster.
The main problem is not that we're seeing abuse of the filibuster; the reality is much worse.
Both parties constantly threaten the use of the filibuster, thereby strangling legislation before it ever gets near a vote. This constantly deployed practice contradicts what the framers expected and the Constitution defined. The founding fathers designed the filibuster as a last resort to be used rarely to block legislation seen as likely to pass but deemed dangerous by one member of the Senate.
The filibuster was not intended to paralyze the democratic process. Thomas Jefferson is rolling in his grave and planning to come back at night and haunt John Boehner!
The origins of the word make clear that a filibuster was never seen as anything other than a 'nuclear option.' Online dictionaries trace the origins of the word to piracy:
[from Spanish filibustero, from French flibustier probably from Dutch vrijbuiter pirate, literally: one plundering freely; see freebooter]
The term was first used to refer to a legislative practice was first recorded in 1851, when obstructionist legislators “pirated” debate. So, when members of Congress threaten a filibuster they are basically being Johnny Depp and pirating democracy; if you will, highjacking the Democratic process.
I believe that the filibuster should be abolished, have a stake driven through it, and buried with a basket of garlic and a huge cross in an unmarked grave. Our democratic system would be so much the better without pirate tactics.