More and more often, political leaders and others in the chattering class are calling for an end the filibuster. Since the invention of the cloture rule in the Senate in 1917, there have been many efforts to end the filibuster. So, 100 years later, what harm could be done in debating the merits of endless debate?
Academically, I'm fine with that discussion. But practically I've already achieved unanimous consent: ending the filibuster is a lazy, short-sighted strategy that, while it might provide a path forward for healthcare reform today, opens the door for many more poor policies down the road.
Up front, I will admit: I am a fan of the filibuster. While some people might count sheep to put themselves to sleep, or sing Rebecca Black's Friday song, I pretend that I am filibustering in the Senate.
I fantasize about breaking the 24 hour and 18 minute-filibuster record, and (more importantly) what I would say. My answers usually range from reading serious historical documents such as the Constitution and The Federalist Papers to sharing daily horoscopes, Wizard of Id cartoons, or MSNBC transcripts.
(I'm just kidding: Obviously no one should ever read MSNBC transcripts.)
To be fair, speaking for hours isn't fun for anyone. The listeners get bored, the speaker gets tired, and business grinds to a halt. However, while the sleep-inducing boredom is real, beyond the superficial is the fact that a filibuster is the last chance to stand up to a legislative bully. The filibuster in the Senate is the only place where one person can truly make a personal stand against the majority.
So, while the content of a filibuster might be nonsense, the ability of a senator to stand up for what they believe while commanding the floor o of the Senate should be protected. The filibuster isn't necessarily about the words spoken, it is about making the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" or "12 Angry Men" last stand that we all secretly want to make. (Or in my case, not so secret.)
But that doesn't stop legislative snowflakes from complaining. They bemoan the fact that they have to listen to their colleagues. They would prefer it if only their ideas were fully heralded and rejoiced by all 100 senators. They would prefer that, after their colleagues have granted them unanimous consent, they would carry them out on their shoulders in celebration and revelry.
But, just accepting what any senator says isn't the way the Senate was intended to work, nor should it. In fact, it is nearly the opposite of that. A senator should really have to work to pass any non-post office-naming bill. Sometimes that work might take months, sometimes years, and sometimes it might even take decades. There is usually a reason that a legislative struggle exists, and the Senate is the venue that can really work on an issue and fully debate it because when a single person can stand up and object, a senator needs to be really careful about what's in their bill.
So, for those of us who believe that a robust public debate on laws that will affect us all is a good thing – we need to brush up on telling the snowflakes "NO." A lot of the senators who are currently serving never received the same training that I received in elementary school, so I thought that maybe a refresher on the many ways to say "No" when confronted with a bully that wants their way – thanks DARE.
Say "No Thanks"
Give a reason or excuse
Repeat refusal, or keep saying no (Broken Record)
Change the subject
Avoid the situation
Strength in numbers
This also isn't to say that I stand behind all filibusters. In fact, that is the point. The filibuster is the tool of the minority, which by definition means that fewer people support the filibusterer than oppose.
For example, the record-setting filibuster (that I think that I could break) was set by Sen. Strom Thurmond, D-S.C., filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1957. It is appalling and aggravating to think about how long it took for the Senate to even consider the bill, but without Thurmond's record-setting filibuster, it would be even harder to explain why. Without the filibuster, that segment of society would have just obstructed legislation from the shadows. No filibuster would also have provided the opponents of the law the ability to say that they didn't have a voice.
If an opponent of a bill doesn't filibuster, or try to filibuster a bill, they are ceding their right to claim that they didn't have a voice.
We need to stand up for the filibuster when we are in the majority and hope that, when the other side claims it from us, that they will stand up for the rights of the minority too. For Republicans, this should be basic common sense: the Left has dominated the majority for the last 100 years.
So, if you support a robust public debate and you aren't a snowflake that is going to cry if you don't your way, then get your "Just say no" voice ready. My favorite, and my 2-year-old daughter's favorite, is the "Broken Record" technique.
No, no, no, no, and no! We will not get rid of the filibuster.
Charles Sauer (@CharlesSauer) is a contributer to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is president of the Market Institute and previously worked on Capitol Hill, for a governor and for an academic think tank.
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