“I don’t think you have to eliminate the filibuster. You have to do it like it used to be when I was in the Senate for the first time,” said the president in an ABC News interview. “You had to get up and command the floor, and you had to keep talking.”
The president’s comments came after a Democratic senator who opposed ending the filibuster, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, told an interviewer that he was open to making the process “a little more painful.”
Mr. Smith speaks long in Washington.
The tactic Mr. Biden was referring to, sometimes referred to as the talking filibuster, is the Art illustrated in the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, ”in which the title character portrayed by James Stewart takes a stand against corruption by preaching in the Senate until he faints.
In the real chamber, where behind-the-scenes proceedings are often blocked by bureaucracy, filibusters can stir up the public drama.
They can be political when Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermonter who negotiates with the Democrats, spent eight hours ranting against tax breaks for the richest Americans in 2010. And they can be disrespectful when New York Republican Senator Alfonse D’Amato sang a Gene Autry song 1992 during a 15-hour speech in an effort to stop a typewriter company from moving hundreds of jobs to Mexico.
Before the civil war, the filibuster was used to protect the interests of the slave states. And throughout the 20th century, Southern Conservative Democrats repeatedly used filibusters to block civil rights legislation, including a law against lynching.
Since then, senators from both parties have used marathon speeches to challenge majority rule on issues such as gun control, judicial nominations, and health care.
But colorful marathon speeches are becoming increasingly rare. The Senate began changing the rules in the 1970s when Senators feared speaking filibusters would poorly reflect the Senate and endanger the health of older members. The mere threat posed by a filibuster is enough today: Senators can prevent controversial measures from reaching the bottom by privately registering their objections.
It can be an endurance test.
An early practitioner of the dramatic filibuster was Huey Long, the Louisiana Democrat who fought against the terms of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
In a 1935 speech that lasted more than 15 hours, Long Read from the constitution and common recipes for fried oysters and liqueurs. He was thwarted by a four o’clock toilet break. (To hold the ground you have to be present on the ground.)
When Mr. Sanders protested in 2010 with a filibuster against the Obama administration’s plan to continue George W. Bush’s tax policy, his monologue lasted eight hours. Mr. Sanders, fueled by oatmeal and coffee, felt his legs cramp and his speech grow hoarse.
“I was afraid that after two or three hours I would have nothing more to say or would be tired or have to go to the bathroom,” he said afterwards. “But I was happy.”
One of the most memorable performances in the last decade came in 2013 from Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas. It was a procedural tactic and technically not a filibuster, but it might hint at things to do with so many presidential aspirants in the chamber.
To circumvent the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Cruz spent 21 hours beating up politicians in “cheap suits” and “bad hairstyles”, praising the hamburgers at White Castle, and even reading some of his daughters favorite stories, including “Greens Eggs “and ham” by Dr. Seuss.
That same year, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul used a real filibuster to delay the appointment of John O. Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr Paul said his ultimate goal is to get the Obama administration to say it will not use drone strikes against American citizens on US soil.
After 13 hours he released the floor. “I’ve found that filibustering has some limitations,” he said said“And I’ll have one to look after here in a few minutes.”
Tradition? Or a “Jim Crow Relic”?
Critics of the filibuster note that its primary use was to hinder advances in civil rights for blacks. Last year, former President Barack Obama called the tactic a “Jim Crow relic” when he delivered a laudatory speech to John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil rights pioneer who died in July.
The South Democrats used the filibuster to block or delay anti-lynch measures in the 1930s. The law outlawed employment discrimination in the 1940s and 1960s and other civil rights laws in the 1950s and 1960s.
“The struggles over filibuster reform for much of the 20th century were closely linked to civil rights implications,” said Sarah A. Binder, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and professor of political science at George Washington University.
The record holder for the longest solo filibuster remains Strom Thurmond, the segregationist Senator from South Carolina who gave one in 1957 speech It lasts more than 24 hours and feeds on a sip of orange juice, pieces of hamburger meat, and pumpernickel.
Thurmond and other Southern Democrats failed in their attempt to block the bill, but used their clout on other occasions to halt other civil rights changes. In 1964 despite a 14 hour filibuster From Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, President Lyndon Johnson, with bipartisan help, won a civil rights bill passed. Mr. Thurmond became a Republican, but Mr. Byrd remained a Democrat and served 51 years.
His successor, Mr. Manchin, counted Byrd as a mentor and said he would do his best to follow in his footsteps and uphold Senate traditions. Today, as a centrist democrat, he exercises an overly great influence in an evenly divided chamber, which makes his position on filibuster rules critical.
How the filibuster started and developed as a void.
The filibuster wasn’t something the founding fathers of the United States envisioned.
In the late 18th century, both the Senate and the House had rules that allowed the majority of their members to break off debates and bring actions to a vote. In an attempt in 1806 to clean up its rulebook, the Senate scrapped this ruling.
The filibuster was an unexpected result of that procedural change, said Professor Binder.
In 1917, amid bitter debates over US participation in World War I, the Senate passed the cloture rule, which allowed two-thirds of Senators to close the debates and put one measure to a vote.
The Senate made other changes in the 1970s, including reducing the super-majority requirement from 67 to 60 votes and allowing more than one pending bill at the same time. The changes allowed the Senate to move on to other lines of business while the theoretical debates about blocked items continued indefinitely and speaking filibusters were essentially obsolete – with the exception of dramatic effects.
At the time, the Democrats had a dominant majority, but the margins have narrowed and the Republicans have taken control for an extended period of time.
In 2013, Senate Democrats had the upper hand at 53-45, ending the minority party’s ability to filibust most of the presidential candidates after years of frustrating Republicans blocking Mr. Obama’s election to federal courts and cabinet posts. They left the filibuster untouched for Supreme Court candidates.
Then they lost control of the Senate. Four years later, when the Republicans held both the presidency and the Senate, they voted to lower the threshold for advancing Supreme Court nominations from 60 votes to a simple majority.
But the super-major rule remained unchanged for the legislature, to the disappointment of President Donald Trump, who unsuccessfully used Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell to use his power as the majority leader to scrap the filibuster.
In the early months of Mr Biden’s administration, Republicans have not yet used the rules to block his laws, but battles are on the way. Some Democrats argue that filibuster reform is the only way to overcome the united republican opposition to pass a suffrage bill or laws to strengthen labor rights or reform immigration policies.
Mr McConnell, who tried in January and failed to get the Democrats to pledge to leave the filibuster alone, dramatically defended the status quo on Tuesday, warning of a “scorched earth” response if the Democrats did should dare to “break the Senate”. ”