Filibustering Explained

Let me first admit that I am wildly excited about the idea of a filibuster in the making. I’ve always wanted to see some old-fashioned senatorial glory and the most recent filibusters haven’t lived up to their predecessors. When I first read that Harry Reid was going to push the Republicans to filibustering, I got excited but when I read that there was a 30-hour limit, I was both perplexed and dismayed. How can you put a limit the phonebook-fest before it even starts? Well, after crying for a bit, I dried my eyes and looked it up: It looks like the days of Papa Thurmond (maybe?) parading around for 24 hours and 18 minutes are over- not simply because he is dead, but because this time the liberals struck first and outlawed fun (and/or copious stalling.) The problem with Reid’s claim however, is that it is unlikely to materialize anytime soon. If he doesn’t get the sixty votes required to initiate cloture, nothing changes. It isn’t likely that he will get the required sixty votes. Oh well, lets pretend that he is capable of taking advantage of an advantage that he has and he is somehow able to garner sixty votes.

Here are the Senate rules governing the limits of debate after cloture has been invoked (Senate Rule XXII):

After no more than thirty hours of consideration of the measure, motion, or other matter on which cloture has been invoked, the Senate shall proceed, without any further debate on any question, to vote on the final disposition thereof to the exclusion of all amendments not then actually pending before the Senate at that time and to the exclusion of all motions, except a motion to table, or to reconsider and one quorum call on demand to establish the presence of a quorum (and motions required to establish a quorum) immediately before the final vote begins. The thirty hours may be increased by the adoption of a motion, decided without debate, by a threefifths affirmative vote of the Senators duly chosen and sworn, and any such time thus agreed upon shall be equally divided between and controlled by the Majority and Minority Leaders or their designees. However, only one motion to extend time, specified above, may be made in any one calendar day.

So yes, the glory session can be extended but because it requires sixty votes (the same number that it takes it end a filibuster), it seems rather unlikely that we will see a prolonged filibuster on this issue at least. Darn, I guess we’ll have to wait for the next judicial nominee for another shot at history-making glory.


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