News / USA

Washington Week: Focus on Filibusters

Washington Week: Focus on Filibustersi
X
July 14, 2013 10:10 PM
Washington is bracing for a major legislative battle this week - not over a specific bill, but over the rules governing the U.S. Senate. The ability of the minority party to block votes, a procedure known as a filibuster, could be curtailed. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, weakening the filibuster might stem chronic legislative gridlock, but could also erode a historic American safeguard against the raw will and power of majority rule.
Washington Week: Focus on Filibusters
Michael Bowman
Washington is bracing for a major legislative battle this week - not over a specific bill, but over the rules governing the U.S. Senate.  The ability of the minority party to block votes, a procedure known as a filibuster, could be curtailed.  Weakening the filibuster might stem chronic legislative gridlock, but could also erode a historic American safeguard against the raw will and power of majority rule.

Until recent years, filibustering meant holding the Senate floor and speaking non-stop to prevent a vote, as portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Backers of racial segregation famously - or infamously - filibustered civil-rights legislation in the 1950s and 60s.  Earlier this year, Republican Senator Rand Paul held the floor for 13 hours to draw attention to the use of domestic drones.

Most modern filibusters are never seen.  A senator files a motion to prevent a vote, and unless a three-fifths supermajority disagrees, the vote is blocked.  Once a rare practice, almost all Senate votes of consequence must now overcome a filibuster.

“Is there anybody out there in America that thinks this body is functioning well," asked Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The Nevada Democrat says his party will move to change filibuster rules this week unless Republicans allow confirmation votes on high-profile nominees submitted by President Barack Obama to lead federal agencies.  Reid says the ability of the government to function is at stake.

“The constitution gives the president, whoever that president may be, the right and the power to choose his team.  It grants the Senate the right to advise and consent on those choices.  But consistent and unprecedented obstruction by the Republican caucus has turned ‘advise and consent’ into ‘deny and obstruct’," he said.

Republicans warn of dire consequences for American democracy.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “That [rules change] would violate every protection of minority rights that have defined the U.S. Senate for as long as anyone can remember.  Let me assure you this Pandora’s Box, once opened, will be utilized again and again by future majorities."

In 2005, Democrats were in the minority and defended the filibuster to block judicial nominees submitted by then-President George W. Bush.

“They [Republicans] think the Senate should be a rubber stamp for this president," said Senator Reid at the time.

Then-majority leader Bill Frist accused Democrats of abusing the filibuster and setting a dangerous precedent. “To enshrine new tyranny of the minority into the Senate rules forever," he said.

Changing the Senate rules by a simple majority vote has been dubbed the “nuclear option”, given its potential to forever alter America’s legislative landscape.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More