The filibuster – American democracy with a small twist

I had intended to do a lot of research into a lesser known device of American democracy – the fillibuster. The fillibuster an action to delay some action by talking. Perhaps the most well known example of this comes not from the houses of congress but from the film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” where Jimmy Stuart spoke for 24 hours in an attempt to prevent the vote on an appropriations bill.

However, the current rules for a filibuster in the US senate are a bit difficult to understand. Under the current rules if a Senator does a filibuster he or she cannot be stopped unless 60 Senators vote to end the “debate”. The last time there such a super majority of in the US Senate was in 1965 which was actually in both the Senate and the House.

Having a half century of voting history to look at makes it somewhat obvious that it is seldom that a single party has this type of majority. Thus you will need to have members of the opposing party vote with to stop a filibuster. This is difficult if the filibuster is being done by one of the parties (e.g Democrats) in order to stop nah essentially kill a piece of legislation.

What this really means is that if one party can the minimum of 41 seats then they can be quite obstructive in the day to day workings in the Senate. This also means that it is possible that a party representing a minority of Americans can prevent the will of the majority.

This would be a odd type of democracy as it stands but even worse considering that each US state is assigned two senators which makes it possible for small states such as Rhode Island to have the same voting rights as a large state such as Texas. This makes is possible that a small group of small states might be having an over-sized importance on the issues voted on by the Senate.

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