The Filibuster


The Filibuster






The Filibuster

            Filibuster is a Dutch word that means “pirate”. Members of the senate usually the minorities use this tactic in parliament when they want to delay, prevent or block a process or change. It is a maneuver used by the minorities to protect their rights and give them freedom of speech. A senator can have a long speech in order to try to stop a bill from being passed, which can only be put to an end if 60 senators vote against it. The senators would use it in order to draw attention to a bill that others members do not want to pass or to get a bill revisited again so that they get a vote.  Not all bills are filibustered like the constitutional amendments this is because a majority of two-thirds vote is required to pass the proposal (United States Senate).

In the U.S. senate, the term was first used in 1841 by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay. This tactic was supposed to be used for the whole of the 19th century, until 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson was urged to allow the Senate to end a debate with a majority vote of two-thirds known as cloture. This was first adopted in 1919 it however, became difficult to use cloture, since a two-thirds rule was almost impossible to obtain. The cloture rule failed for the next five decades hence the senators continued to filibuster; because of this in 1975; the votes were reduced to three fifths. That meant that the vote had to have 60 current senators. (Yost, 2009). The most popular filibuster in America history was a play by Frank Capra “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” featuring Jimmy Stewart imitating Senator Jefferson Smith. In real life, filibuster was used by Senator Huey P. Long in the 1930s. He used quotations from Shakespeare and read recipes from a cook book this held the floor of the Senate for 15 hours. The longest filibuster in the American history lasted 24 hours and 18 minutes; the speech was read by J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina in 1957, he began his filibuster by reading each of the 48 states’ voting statutes. He eventually became so fatigued and hoarse that he could no longer continue, so he closed his filibuster by saying he expects to vote against the bill. As it is seen in the case of, Strom Thurmond a filibuster requires stamina, passion, conviction, and a willingness to speak for 10 or 12 hours while opposing a bill (Cost, 2009).

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