Friday, May 26, 2023

An Old-Fashioned Filibuster

Gerard N. Magliocca

Long ago, a Senate filibuster involved talking marathons by a Senator or by a small group. We don't see this anymore because of modern cloture practice. But there are circumstances in which this tactic could still happen. Imagine it was the final day of a Congress and a Senator wanted to block a bill. She could take the floor and just talk until that Congress was forced to adjourn sine die. This did happen, most famously on the eve of World War I when some isolationist Senators talked a military bill to death at the end of the lame-duck session. (This filibuster spurred the creation of the first cloture rule.)

Unfortunately, the debt ceiling creates a similar scenario in the middle of this Congress. Even if a budget deal is made and passes the House of Representatives, a small group of Senators could just hold a talking marathon starting on May 31 or June 1 and keep that up until they get whatever concessions they want. This is why waiting until the last minute to work out the details of vital legislation is a risky business. 


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