Filibuster and Health Care Reform

24 March 2010

Filibuster

There has been a lot of talk about a Senate filibuster on anything the freely-elected president proposes. If the president sponsored a resolution avowing that today was a nice day. The GOP would threaten a filibuster to stop it. That got me thinking, what the fuck is a filibuster?

I think I learned about it in Roycemore Juvenile Reformatory School. I can’t be sure because my history teacher, Richard Davis, would spend more time talking about the Louisville Cardinals Basketball program or seeing Duke Tumatoe and the All-Star Frogs at Biddy Mulligan’s the previous night then he did talking about history. From what I remember, a filibuster is a parliamentary device used to obstruct legislation. The minority party will use a filibuster to stall a vote. Normally, this is done by talking continuously and not yielding the floor. A senator who has the floor for purposes of debate must remain standing and must speak more or less continuously. Once he begins, he cannot be interrupted by other parliamentary maneuvers to end debate. In addition, a senator must remain standing while he is speaking. It’s just like working at the Starbucks in Frankfort, IL.

The most famous filibuster was by Sen. Strom Thurmond. He spoke non-stop for over 24 hours against the Civil Rights Act. Before that, in 1932, Sen. Huey “The Kingfish” Long spoke for 15 and a half hours reading and analyzing each section of the Constitution. His filibuster was to stop FDR from nixing Social Security from a New Deal Bill. The former seems like a high-minded ideal compared the last filibuster in 1992 when Sen. Al D’Amato spoke for 23 hours to kill a bill that would have eliminated defense funds from a company in his state.

In 1975, the senate enacted the rule, known as Rule XXII, which reduced the vote to end a filibuster from 2/3rd to 3/5th majority. In the US Senate, a 3/5th majority is 40 votes. I know what you are saying; there is that Chicago Public School math again. Wrong blackboard breath! The majority party is now the Republicans because the Democrats are such pussies they have let the GOP take over the Senate, even though it is 59-41 in favor of the Dems.

As it now stands, actual speeches are not required to even have a filibuster. A senator, who does not want the Senate to take up a certain measure, whether temporarily or permanently, can place a “hold” on the bill. He requests that the majority leader not bring the bill up for consideration. It is an informal request that the President of the Senate does not have to honor. By placing the hold it means the senator intends to filibuster.

A senator can say he is going to filibuster and that is the same thing as a standing up there and reading. That is what Sen. Droopy did when he effectively killed the Public Option on health care reform. The only way to end the filibuster is by something called “cloture.” A senator presents 16 signatures from other senators to the President of the Senate. Once presented, debate is ended for one day. On the second day, the Senate re-convenes, the lobbyist are ordered to stop giving huge “gifts” for one hour, quorum is called and then a vote takes place. If 3/5th of the senators vote to end the filibuster, senators are then allowed to make a final speech, none lasting longer than an hour, and debate must not last longer than 30 hours. The previous question is then called and seconded and if there are 60 votes, et viola, the filibuster is broken.

The other option to end debate is the “Nuclear Option.” In this option, George W. Bush takes the floor of the Senate and mispronounces “nuclear.”

Wait, I am being told that is not the “nuclear option.” Instead, a senator against the filibuster makes a point of order to call for an immediate vote on the measure before the body. A point of order supersedes any other motion.  The chair then rules on the point of order citing the Constitution as its point and debate is ended. Then another senator who is for the filibuster appeals the decision of the chair. This motion is debatable. Finally a senator who is against the filibuster makes a motion to table the appeal or the question, this can be passed by a simple majority. Once passed, the appeal is upheld which means the filibuster was unconstitutional and effectively killed. Then the senators can vote on the bill, again with a simple majority. (Hey Richard, remember “Parliamentary Procedure at its Best”?).

That is a lot to understand and my guess is that it is much too hard for the average senator to understand, that is why it rarely happens. It is much easier to place a hold on the bill and work it out amongst themselves.

The President of the Senate has the option of not allowing the filibuster threat. He can ignore the hold and make the senator stand up and make utter fools of themselves by talking endlessly and not yielding the floor.

The average age of a senator is 63-years-old. One senator is in his 90s, four are in their 80s, 21 are in their 70s, 33 are in their 60s, 31 are in their 50s and 10 are in their 40s. The oldest GOP senators are: Jim Bunning, 78-years old. Richard Lugar, 77-years-old.

Chuck Grassley, 76-years-old.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is 68-years-old.

Sen. Droopy is 68-years-old.

Bunning recently used a hold on the bill to extend Unemployment benefits. I guess he forgot that the Kentucky Unemployment is at a 26-year high at 10.5%. If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had the balls to ignore the hold, these guys would have to stand, for hours, uninterrupted. I got news for you; these old white men haven’t been on their feet for more than 10 minutes at a time outside of the golf course since they stood in line to see “Moulin Rouge” the original one in 1952. They will not stand up and talk. When was the last time you saw a man in his late-70’s stand up for a long period of time other than the dessert bar at Golden Corral?

Maybe the public needs to see the senators acting like the petulant children they are. The “Real America” that Sarah Palin is always spouting off about should see their elected officials stand up for their core beliefs like: denying health care to those who voted for them or making sure bankers do not have to play be rules or not extending unemployment benefits to those out of work. After 24 hours or 24 days the “Real America” will turn on those republicans and those senators will find themselves unemployed, begging for decent health care and hoping that their banking buddies will not have forgotten about them once out of office.

Alas, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is too weak and pathetic to ignore the hold and Vice President Joe Biden doesn’t want to break bad on his former buddies from the Senate. Neither wants to show up their GOP bedfellows for fear that when they return to power that the Dems may suffer the same treatment. The only difference is that Sen. McConnell would have no problem having the octogenarian, Dem senators stand up to filibuster President Romney’s efforts to have all Americans search for the missing Golden Plates.

Health Care Reform

I know I addressed this in an earlier post but I wanted to go back to it.  The long-awaited health care reform finally passed the House on Sunday. For the life of me I can’t get why the Right, especially the Conservative-Christian crowd and Teabaggers are so opposed to a basic human right? In addition, the tone of their argument is vituperative, vile and embarrassing.

If you listen to Sean Hannity, he emphatically bellows that “America is the greatest, best country God has ever given man on the face of the Earth.” If that is the case, why is our health care system rated just above Slovenia and below Costa Rica? No wonder right-wing drug-addict/blowhard Rush Limbaugh said he would move there after the bill passed the House last week. Greece, which is almost bankrupt, has better health care the US. We should be ashamed that we cannot figure out a way to have everyone covered.

The mainstream republicans are outraged because: it will limit the power citizens have in the own health care choices, it will tax the wealthy, it could be socialized medicine, it will increase the budget deficit, the Republicans are against everything the Dems are for.

Here are the facts, the ones FOX News would rather not talk about. If you are employed, you can keep your current policy. You do not have to sign up with the government plan. No change; nothing. Yes, the wealthy will have their taxes increased; those making above $250,000 per year. Considering they have had a nice easy ride since Reagan took office, they really shouldn’t complain. As stated above, if you have a health plan, you do not have to take the government’s plan, thus no socialized medicine. The Congressional Budget Office, the referee in all political debates when it comes to money, says health care reform will REDUCE the budget deficit. In addition, if the right-wing were so concerned about the budget deficit according to a non-partisan website (http://costofwar.com/) will reach one trillion dollars by the end of the month! Stop the war; bring the troops home and Roberts your father’s brother, health care is paid for. As for the last point; there is no cure for that.

Now for the arguments that the mainstream republicans make have come across. The tone and language has gotten more and more hateful as the ‘debate’ went on. Need proof? Rep. Barney Frank was called a “faggot” by protesters. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver was spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis, a hero of the Civil Rights movement, was called a “nigger” by the very same folks. What does someone’s race or sexual preference have to do with how they vote?

All of these protesters were the so-called “Teabaggers.” People who enjoy having dudes balls placed on their eyelids. Actually, they are a group of white, predominately male, right-wing, protesters who would support a Tea Party candidate but will not give to any financial support to help them get elected.

Has the GOP distanced themselves from the Teabaggers? Has the cast of “Jersey Shore” distanced themselves from nightclubs brawls? Hell no; in both cases, they endorse it. Rep. Devin Nunes recently said on C-SPAN “And I think, you know, there`s people that have every right to say what they want. If they want to smear someone, they can do it.” He called the health care reform supporters “Communists.” I guess in his warped view of the world that when you help fellow citizens obtain decent health care, than you are a communist. So it goes. Sarah Palin, future reality star, told FOX News in January that the GOP and Teabaggers should come together, “They need to merge…definitely, they need to merge. I think those who are wanting the divisions and the divisiveness and the controversy — those are the ones who don’t believe in the message. And they’re the ones, I think, stirring it up.” Outspoken antagonist of health care reform Rep. Michelle Bachman called on bloggers and activists to “scare” members of Congress into killing the proposed health care reform bill. She opined, if the protesters succeed in scaring lawmakers, it could cripple efforts to restructure health care for a decade. “Nothing scares members of Congress more than freedom-loving Americans,” Bachmann said.

Armed with words of approval from the GOP leaders, given carte blanch to say whatever they want, the mainstream republicans, under the banner of the Teabaggers, did this in Columbus, OH:

I seem to remember another person, about 2000 years ago who went out of his way to help people, he stood up for the downtrodden, he humbled himself before the less-fortunate, he even “healed” those who could not be healed and thus shunned from society. Here’s the kicker, the man I am talking about is worshiped, literally, by the Right. I think it was John 14:23 where Jesus says to the lepers, “You are the moochers of society. You don’t pay taxes, don’t contribute to society and have no value. I will not be curing you or washing your feet today, or ever. Now get out of my way, I have to get a camel through the eye of a needle.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing President Obama to JC. I am trying to point out that so many on the Christian Right are filled with hate, especially for the less-fortunate, yet the man they base their religious beliefs did exactly what they abhor. Oh hypocrisy, you are a cruel mistress.

To sum up, Democrats, grow a pair. Perhaps you should borrow the pair that the Teabaggers have. Republicans, look in the mirror, are you proud of what you have become?

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One Response to “Filibuster and Health Care Reform”

  1. Richard Davis Says:

    Neil,
    Great job on your blog! I am glad to see your training in Parliamentary procedure is paying off.
    Richard


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