It’s the End of the Filibuster As We Know It

Daniel McIntosh, PhD.
7 min readJun 4, 2021

And I Feel Fine

Please note: the modern filibuster looks NOTHING like this

The filibuster is a Senate rule: nothing more, nothing less. It is not part of American Constitutional law. It has nothing to do with maintaining “tradition” or the soul of the Senate. It is not a “tool that protects the democracy of our nation” (Senator Sinema) It is a parliamentary procedure, until recently seldom used, where one or more members of a legislature continue to debate a proposed piece of legislation in order to prevent a vote. The tactic goes back as far as Cato the Younger, who would speak until dusk — when the Roman Senate was required to adjourn. In Britain, the longest known speech in the House of Commons is six hours, non-stop, in the early nineteenth century. The longest speech in the Senate of Australia was twelve hours (including friendly interruptions). In response to it, the Australian Senate limited the length of speeches to no more than twenty minutes.

The Senate of the United States has resisted being so sensible. When he Senate first convened in 1789 a simple majority was sufficient to end a debate. But since 1805 it has been enshrined in the standing rules of the Senate that any Senator holding the floor may speak as long as he wishes on any topic he desires. Originally, to end such a speech (through what is known as cloture motion) required a unanimous vote of the Senate — which, of…

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Daniel McIntosh, PhD.

Writer, consultant, public speaker. Tired of living in the Dark Ages. Working for something better. Top writer in politics and economics.