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January 12, 2011

They Even Filibustered The Public Printer!

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

The Senate is considering changing the rules for the "filibuster" and this is an opportunity for you to do something that can make a difference. The filibuster has been abused and the Senate is broken. Call your Senators and tell them you want this fixed!

"Abuse" does not adequately describe what has happened with the filibuster and "broken" does not adequately describe what has happened with the U.S. Senate. Two years ago We, the People voted for change, but in the Senate change and everything else was blocked. Everything was filibustered as part of a strategy to demoralize people and undermine democracy. Everything. Important bills, judges, agency heads, ambassadors and all the things that constitute "everything." And the strategy worked.

They even filibustered the Public Printer!

What is the Public Printer? The Public Printer heads up the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). The GPO manages our country's public documents. They print but also electronically distribute the Congressional Record, Supreme Court decisions, passports, tax forms, internal government documents, and agency publications. (They don't print the money.)

Benjamin Franklin served as the Public Printer when we were a colony, though the current office was established by Congress in 1861.

I am unable to locate any stated reason why the nomination of the Public Printer was filibustered, leaving me to assume that this particular filibuster came under the classification of "everything." Therefore the Public Printer was filibustered.

So now the Senate is considering whether to change their system. They are voting on January 24. They are considering making Senators actually filibuster instead of being able to block things from a nice table at a nice restaurant. This way the public will be aware that this tactic is being used to block things and can respond accordingly.

This is why you should call your Senators - both of them - today, and tell them that you want the Senate to reform the filibuster.

If you do this, some of them will say "Uh oh, they're on to us." They depend on the public not understanding what is going on, but if you call they will know that you are hip to their bag of tricks.

Others will say, "Hey, I don't have to be afraid to change things, they are paying attention!" These Senators will know that they have support and will be nudged toward voting to fix the problem, which will help make it so they can fix the rest of the problems.

Either way, calling WILL do some good. So call. Today. And tell others to call.

This is Annie Hill of the Communication Workers Union, with an overview of Senate Rules Reform:


Warning: If you are not a political junkie you might want to stop reading now and go call your Senators and say you want the filibuster reformed. The following content might be unsuitable for normal audiences.

Ezra Klein, with one of the best blog post titles in a long time, If you read only one John Kerry speech today ...,

I'm not going to summarize it here, because I think it's actually worth taking five minutes to read it in full. But the whole thing is below the fold:

Yes, if you like to read John Kerry speeches you should click through to read the whole thing, but just in case you are the rare individual who does not live to read John Kerry speeches here is "the meat," (and keep in mind that I, a vegetarian, had to actually read the speech to find "the meat" for you),

John and I considered postponing this speech, which had been planned for some time. But serious times call for serious discussions. And after some reflection, both of us felt that not only should this speech not be postponed, but that, in fact, it was imperative to give it.

Oh, wait, that's apparently not the interesting part. This is, about 115 paragraphs into the filibuster talk.,

Sometimes, as John Kennedy once said, “party asks too much.” Sometimes, party leaders also ask too much, especially if they exploit the rules of the United States Senate for the sole purpose of denying a President a second term. But that is what we have witnessed the last two years; Republicans nearly unanimous in opposition to almost every proposal by the President and almost every proposal by Democratic colleagues. The extraordinary measure of a filibuster has become an ordinary expedient. Today it’s possible for 41 Senators representing only about one tenth of the American population to bring the Senate to a standstill.

Certainly, I believe the filibuster has its rightful place. I used it to stop drilling for oil in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge because I believed that was in our national interest --and 60 or more Senators should be required to speak up on such an irrevocable decision. But we have reached the point where the filibuster is being invoked by the minority not necessarily because of a difference over policy, but as a political tool to undermine the Presidency.

Consider this: in the entire 19th century, including the struggle against slavery, fewer than two dozen filibusters were mounted. Between 1933 and the coming of World War II, it was attempted only twice. During the Eisenhower administration, twice. During John Kennedy’s presidency, four times-- and then eight during Lyndon Johnson’s push for civil rights and voting rights bills. By the time Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan occupied the White House, there were about 20 filibusters a year.

But in the 110th Congress of 2007-2008, there were a record 112 cloture votes. And in the 111th Congress, there were 136, one of which even delayed a vote to authorize funding for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps during a time of war. That’s not how the Founders intended the Senate to work-- and that's not how our country can afford the Senate not to work.

If only I could move to DC so I could listen to speeches like this every day instead of just reading them.

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Posted by Dave Johnson at January 12, 2011 5:19 PM


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