Abuse of filibuster thwarts democratic process

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To the editor:
It’s high time lawmakers in the Senate do away with the frivolous filibuster. Never before has one minority party gummed up the legislative works so effectively as today’s GOP. The Elephant Party used this tool as a not-so-secret ace in the hole tactic during President Obama’s first term to just say no to anything and everything initiated by Democrats by not letting any of their legislation see the light of day.

Republicans made the very whiff of a filibuster apoplectic for Democrats, knowing nothing could pass without 60 yeas by three-fifths of the senators, the number needed to break a filibuster. It wasn’t always like this.

Once upon a time, actually just prior to President Obama’s first term, stalling legislation with a filibuster was used sparingly by either political party. Even further back, senators actually had to continue bloviating, reading the phone book and so forth to perpetuate a filibuster.

No more. Now 60 yeas instead of a simple majority of 51 are presumed necessary to pass anything, without any requirement to act like a fool in front of one’s peers.

Why make things so easy for the obstructionists? Why not make the filibuster initiator(s) actually stand up and perpetuate the marathon stalling tactic, continue to discuss objections to particular legislation in a reasonable way?

In fact, have the majority leader and a member of the minority party appoint a committee of apolitical academics versed in the subject at hand to recommend cessation of the filibuster as soon as the speaker or speakers run out of substantive arguments regarding their objections to any proposed legislation. 

Once the filibuster has been deemed to run its course, a simple majority of 51 would again be sufficient to pass legislation.

Some might suggest that without a potent filibuster, tyranny of the majority would prevail in the Senate. Are these folks also saying tyranny of the minority is preferable? Does the word democracy mean anything anymore?

Minority rights must be protected, but does this concept apply to elected legislators, and at the expense of perhaps a majority of voters that put senators in office to represent their interests? What about the right of “we the people” to have a functioning body of lawmakers, especially in such perilous times?

The filibuster, when abused, thwarts the democratic process. Indeed, when a de facto rule change in the Senate concerning the number of affirmative votes needed to pass legislation becomes a given, we know the intent of our founding fathers has been circumvented and our ability to legislate has been frustrated. The people deserve better than that.

  Lawrence Uniglicht


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