No, the Talking Filibuster is Not a Solution

The New York Times editorial page came out in favor of the talking filibuster today (not the first time), but I don’t see how forcing Senators to stand on the floor and talk continuously would help at all. Here’s the Times:

Several younger senators, led by Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico, say that if pressed, a majority of the Senate would support their plan for the talking filibuster. But older senators aren’t so sure, and have reportedly persuaded Harry Reid, the majority leader, to back off the idea. With the experience of having been in the minority themselves, these Democrats are fearful of losing a powerful tool should Republicans ever return to power in the chamber.

That would squander a moment for change. Supermajorities were never intended to be a routine legislative barrier; they should be reserved for the most momentous bills, and the best way to make that happen is to require that objectors work hard for their filibuster, assembling a like-minded coalition and being forthright about their concerns rather than hiding in the shadows or holding up a bill with an e-mailed note.

Certainly, we need filibuster reform. But the talking filibuster isn’t the solution. It would just create more dysfunction. Republicans are not going to stop filibustering bills if they are forced to take the floor and talk continuously. They will just go and talk. The Senate would have the same number of filibusters as it has now, except it would waste even more time. Who does this help? It gives Republican Senators less time to study up on the issues and talk to their constituents (they aren’t going to cut back on fundraising). Democrats don’t receive anything in return – the same number of bills are still filibustered.

Luckily, the talking filibuster does not currently seem like it’ll be part of the final bill:

Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are close to reaching a deal to speed the pace of work in the Senate, but some of the details remain unresolved.

The agreement between Reid and McConnell is not expected to include the talking filibuster, which would require senators who want to block action on legislation to actually hold the floor and debate for hours on end.

We’ll have to wait and see what comes out in the next few days to judge the final legislation, but I’m happy to see that the talking filibuster is currently not part of the deal.


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