Filibuster? Not really.
Since When Does The Senate Need 60 Votes To Pass Legislation
December 13, 2008
The much anticipated auto bailout bill failed today on the Senate, by a vote of 52-35. By the way, that’s 52 IN FAVOR, and 35 opposed. This is also one of several major pieces of legislation over the past two years that has failed to pass the Senate despite having the support of between 51 and 59 Senators.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “Wait a second, if there are a hundred Senators, and 52 are in favor of something, why can’t it get passed?” Well, that’s because sixty votes are required to block a filibuster.
So I bet you’re now thinking that the Senate Republicans filibustered this legislation. Well, you’d be wrong. The Senate Republicans, as they have done for virtually every major piece of legislation since 2006, have THREATENED to filibuster. They haven’t actually done it. And every time they do, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tries to get 60 votes to stop them, or the legislation dies.
So here’s what I’m wondering. Why doesn’t Harry Reid grow a pair, and actually call the Republicans bluff. If they want to stop health care reform, increased veterans benefits, auto bailouts, etc., why doesn’t Harry Reid actually make them filibuster. Why doesn’t he make them go through the exhausting process of talking for days on end, nonstop. If the Republicans want the whole world to know that they are holding up all processes in the Senate, and completely exhaust themselves, eating and sleeping on the Senate floor of days, let them. Maybe the spectacle will get more people to pay attention and hold our leaders accountable. Maybe the Republicans will crack and we won’t need 60 Senators to pass universal health care or increase veterans benefits or the minimum wage. But at the very least, Harry Reid and every single person who voted Democrat in 2006, myself included, won’t look like a total wuss. When someone threatens to do something over and over again, eventually you have to call them on it. Period.
Written by Andrew Sparrow · Filed Under Politics
3 Responses to “Since When Does The Senate Need 60 Votes To Pass Legislation”
JamesC on February 6th, 2009 10:41 am I came across your article while doing a web search on the need for 60 senators to get a law passed.
Doing a quick check at wiki on the concept of a “filibuster” I found this:
“In current practice, Senate Rule 22 permits filibusters in which actual continuous floor speeches are not required, although the Senate Majority Leader may require an actual traditional filibuster if he or she so chooses. This threat of a filibuster can therefore be as powerful as an actual filibuster. Previously, the filibustering senator(s) could delay voting only by making an endless speech. Currently, they need only indicate that they are filibustering, thereby preventing the Senate from moving on to other business until the motion is withdrawn or enough votes are gathered for cloture.”
So either A) you are totally ignorant of Senate procedures and should look before you leap - ie.research - for atleast 2 minutes - before you write … or B) wiki is messed up again.
However the senate does publish their rules on-line and seem to agree. Check it out: rules.senate.gov/senaterules/rule22.php
By the way, I prefer to interpret Obama’s message of hope: “Yes, we can!” to mean “Yes, we can work with folks on all sides of important issues to get things done” and NOT “Yes, we can over-ride all opposition and force our will on the people.”
There is no Democratics America, no Republicans American, there is just ONE America, the UNITED States of America.
Andrew Sparrow on February 8th, 2009 11:27 pm I’m glad you put in two minutes of research James. I put in a little more than that before I right a post.
The Senate has a process in place for amending rules; this process requires a two-thirds  vote. According to Congressional Quarterly, from 1919-1971, there were nine filibusters relating to Rule 22; in each case, there were insufficient votes to invoke cloture.
The “nuclear option” which Republican leaders used to threaten is actually a series of steps designed to bypass the two-thirds vote requirement to change rules: (cite) The Senate moves to vote:
At least 41 Senators call for filibuster.
Majority Leader Reid raises a point of order, saying debate has gone on long enough and that a vote must be taken within a certain time frame. (Current Senate rules requires a cloture vote at this point.)
Vice President Biden– acting as presiding officer — sustains the point of order.
A minority Senator appeals the decision.
A majority Senator moves to table the motion on the floor (the appeal).
This vote - to table the appeal - is procedural and cannot be subjected to a filibuster; it requires only a majority vote (in case of a tie, the Vice President casts the tie-breaking vote).
With debate ended, the Senate would vote; this vote requires only a majority of those voting. The filibuster has effectively been closed with a majority vote instead of a three-fifths vote.
Andrew Sparrow on February 8th, 2009 11:28 pm Additionally, there is nothing in the constitution about filibusters, they are a part of Senate rules and can be changed by the majority party.