what is a filibuster?


How is it used against one party or another? Why does it seem like it would be easy to get rid of? Why does it exist?

In: 4

A previous thread on the topic.

All of the questions are answered in the first post except “why?” So to answer that before this gets removed for rule 7….

Because debate generally has rules. The idea of “having the floor” where only one person is allowed to speak is to prevent it from just devolving into an interrupting shouting match.

It’s used as a check and balance against strait democracy. Our system in the US Is meant to be tedious. The federal government has limited oversight. Laws should be made at the lowest level.

A filibuster in the most general sense is simply using the rules of a legislature system to stall out some due process, typically by talking and talking for ages.

Considering this is Reddit, where 50% of all English speakers on the site are from the United States, I’ll assume you’re asking about filibusters in the US Senate.

There is no rule in the Senate that says anything remotely like “there exists a filibuster”. It only exists as a side effect of other rules. Those namely being:

* In the debate phase of a bill, debate has no time limit
* Senators on the debate floor can talk about literally whatever they want, whether it has anything to do with the bill or not
* It takes a 60% majority vote to shut a senator up and close debate early

So it’s not hard to imagine the situation of a senator in a party with a slight minority rolling up to the debate of some bill they don’t want passed with, say, all seven Harry Potter books, Tolkein’s entire body of work, the Bee Movie script, and the entire transcript of Homestuck and belting off all of that in the debate just to burn time, and no one can stop them. That’s a filibuster.

As to the whole drama of “removing” it, well, again, it’s not a rule. It’s merely a side effect of those three other rules. And minus anything the US Constitution directly clarifies, the US Senate gets to pick its own rules and can change them as it sees fit at any time. So if they wanted to, all they’d need to do is rewrite one or more of those three rules to effectively kneecap the filibuster.

Whether or not they actually do want to is the subject of much controversy. And whether or not they *should* is even more politically heated. Neither of those are questions for ELI5.

When politicians discuss laws with each other, everyone gets their turn to speak. In order to be fair to everyone, when someone is speaking, no one is allowed to interrupt or tell the person to stop speaking.

Only after everyone has had their fair chance to speak, then is the law allowed to be voted on.

The filibuster was invented when someone thought “hmm, the law can only pass once everyone is finished speaking, so what if… I just spoke forever?”

Thus, the filibuster became a way to protest a law by speaking for unusually long during this speaking process.

The thing I don’t understand is, ok, someone spoke for an ungodly amount of hours, delaying the process. When the person stops, what stops them from doing the vote anyway after those hours? Why do you want to stall for those hours? What did they get from it besides being annoying and delaying it?