Restoring the Real Filibuster

Posted: November 29, 2012 in Contemporary, Historic

There is a moment in time when a simple majority vote of a quorum (51% of the Senate) during the first session of a new Congress may change the rules to reduce the severe partisanship which blocks the productive consideration of legislation by way of a sadly misused filibuster process.

The current filibuster rules of the Senate, and the provision that only one senator may, even anonymously, block the other 99 from considering or voting on an issue, are clearly unconstitutional.

While the Constitution says that the Senate may establish its own rules, it also states in Article I, Section 5 that a majority of that body constitutes a quorum to conduct business. In parliamentary terms, this means that, even if only 51 Senators are in attendance, they have a quorum and may approve an action by a simple majority vote of those actually present at that time.

In addition the Constitution enumerates only seven circumstances which require more than a majority of the quorum. Beyond that, there is a principle in the law which indicates that if there is enumeration, then all else is excluded. In parliamentary terms, this rules out any super majority requirement except on those seven constitutional matters.

The minority party at any given time might suffer by returning to the Constitutional principles established by our Founding Fathers; however, the interests of our nation will be better served by the will of a majority of the Congress, duly elected by the people, and not derailed by a those who who wish only to block the majority from addressing its constitutionally mandated tasks.

It is high time to get back to the concept of majority rule as laid out so clearly in the Constitution and get rid of unconstitutional parliamentary maneuvers which inhibit the legislative process! The old filibuster process wherein a Senator had to take the floor and hold it (as in the 1939 movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, starring Jimmy Stewart) is certainly constitutional and should be re-established.

The author, a retired management consultant and a past director of Toastmasters International, has served in positions of leadership and parliamentary roles for a variety of local, state, regional, and national organizations and has been a long time student of governmental and constitutional issues.

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