Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Short History of the Senate Filibuster

Here is Gold and Gupta with a short history of the Senate filibuster rule
Senator Thomas J. Walsh (D-MT) first advocated using the constitutional option in 1917. Like Byrd, Walsh reasoned that a newly commenced Senate may disregard the rules established by a prior Senate, including the rules governing filibusters, and adopt new rules in their stead. During this process, Walsh explained, the Senate would revert to the powers set forth in the U.S. Constitution and rely upon traditional parliamentary procedures, which contain procedural mechanisms to control filibusters. Like Byrd’s opponents, Walsh’s opponents gave way once they realized that Walsh potentially had enough votes to carry out his plan, resulting in the Senate adopting its first formal rule limiting debate. Similarly, in 1959, after over a dozen civil rights bills had been defeated by filibusters, and in 1975, after nearly two decades of ruleschange attempts were thwarted, the minority gave way and agreed to amend the Senate cloture rule once it became apparent that a majority of the Senate was prepared to carry out the constitutional option. On all four occasions--1917, 1959, 1975, and 1979--the rules changes may never have been adopted but for the prospect that theconstitutional option would be exercised.