I guess the term "silent filibuster" isn't any more of an oxymoron than Richard Shelby as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The good news is that Shelby is now just a "moron" but the "silent" filibuster continues. That is, unless Harry Reid grows a pair of ... I mean.... grows a spine and stops it.
To anyone who remembers Jimmy Stewart's epic filibuster scene in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," the idea of being silent during a filibuster makes absolutely no sense. Stewart's filibuster was fiction, but these were not:
- Senator Huey P. Long: "Huey Long spoke for 15 hours and 30 minutes, the second-longest Senate filibuster to that time. As day turned to night, he read and analyzed each section of the Constitution, a document he claimed the president's New Deal programs had transformed to 'ancient and forgotten lore".'
- Senator Wayne Morse: "Wayne Morse rose on the Senate floor on April 24, 1953. Described as "a lean trim man, with a clipped mustache, sharp nose, and bushy black eyebrows," he began a filibuster against Tidelands Oil legislation. When he concluded after 22 hours and 26 minutes, he had broken the 18-hour record set in 1908 by his mentor, Robert La Follette."
- Senator Strom Thurmond: "In opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957, he conducted the longest filibuster ever by a lone senator, at 24 hours and 18 minutes in length, nonstop."
So here we have three Senators who stood on principle - even if Thurmond's "principle" was the noxious defense of segregation. They didn't just stand... they talked. Nonstop.
That's what most people think of now when the see the term "filibuster" used in the news. Except that's not how the filibuster is used now. The filibuster, you see, has fallen silent:
In years past, real filibusters rarely happened since they required opposition senators to go to the effort of standing on their feet and speaking continuously for hours on end. Only the most intense and dedicated opposition would mount filibusters. But with the advent of the "silent" filibuster, which requires no effort (other than telling the Majority Leader that there are 41 members opposed to a bill), the number of "filibusters" has increased enormously. The practice of requiring a supermajority of 60 has now become routine.
Nothing about this practice protects the "rights of the minority." Rather it keeps the Senate from actually voting on anything the minority opposes.
All filibuster reform proponents are requesting is that Senators who want to filibuster should tell us why.
On the record and in the well of the Senate.
For as long as it takes.
That's not asking too much now, is it?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced last night that he is giving the GOP 36 hours to negotiate on filibuster reform or he (Reid) will take steps on his own to require a talking filibuster.
Changing the Senate rules this way would require 51 votes and is humorously called "the nuclear option." Because certainly requiring a simple majority vote on anything more controversial than what to name a post office in Bucksnort, TN is totally comparable to a weapon of mass destruction, right?
Contact Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid NOW and demand that he stop wavering on this minor reform. Tell him to honor the history of the Senate and require a talking filibuster.
His # is 202-224-3542