Although the traditional, 24/7 filibuster is codified, the
"gentlemen's agreement" lazy-man's filibuster is apparently just the
Senate's way of coddling itself. No one has actually changed the rules
since 1975, it's just that everyone seems to be locked into shrugging
and winking rather than reverting to the older, harsher conditions of
a filibuster. I suspect this is because each Senator is thinking to
himself "Someday I may want to be part of a filibuster that will help
me to promote my agenda; if l let these guys bend the rules now,
they'll let me do it later."
"The Senate determines its own rules. Perhaps the most distinctive
feature of Senate procedure is its tradition of extended and open
debate--that is, any senator can continue debating a bill or an issue
indefinitely, unless two-thirds of the senators present and voting
adopt a motion of Cloture to stop debate. The use of such dilatory
tactics is known as the Filibuster. During the 1950s and 1960s,
Southern Democratic senators frequently employed filibusters to delay
or quash civil rights measures. In 1975 the Senate altered its
standing Rule XXII to permit 60 senators to end a filibuster unless
the debate concerns Senate rules (in which case the two-thirds rule
remains in effect). This change, however, proposed as a way of more
easily curtailing the filibuster, did not eliminate the practice."
Grolier Online: The American Presidency
"Under the Senate Rules, which are designed to encourage debate, the
Senate may not vote on a bill or amendment until 60% of the body
agrees to end the debate. This gives a minority of senators the power
to block consideration of a measure by invoking what has come to be
known as a 'gentlemen's filibuster.' Lest one has visions of
weary-eyed senators speaking in a continuous dialogue through the day
and night, a 'gentlemen's filibuster' permits the Senate to consider
any other matter while the 'filibuster' continues. Sixty senators must
agree to end the debate in order to "invoke cloture" and end the
Second Amendment Foundation
Here's an excellent editorial on the subject of so-called "gentlemen's
More on filibusters:
Regarding the matter of who has the power to enforce a strict
interpretation upon a filibuster, technically Senator Bill Frist, as
Senate Majority Leader, has this power (the U.S. Senate has rules,
but, unlike the House, it has no Rules Committee.) Senator Frist is
obviously reluctant to force the issue, probably because of the
possible political consequences of doing so.
"RULES COMMITTEE (HOUSE ONLY): The power for deciding the flow of
business in the House is vested in the Rules Committee. In the normal
course of events a bill does not come up for action on the floor
without a rule from the Rules Committee. By failing to act or by
refusing to grant a rule, the Rules Committee can veto a bill.
Furthermore, the rule granted gives the conditions under which a bill
will be discussed. A special rule, for example, may prohibit
amendments altogether or provide that only members of the committee
reporting the bill may offer amendments. The rule also sets the length
of debate. There is no Rules Committee in the Senate. The Senate's
majority leader has the power to determine that body's agenda."
Guidance Associates Educational & Training Videos
Search terms used:
I wish I could give you some slam-bang legal ammunition with which to
confront Senators Frist, Daschel, and Hatch, but there doesn't seem to
be any. Sometimes the Senate resembles an Old Boys' Club filled with
Foghorn Leghorn-style politickers scratching each other's backs while
their constituents wait outside the clubhouse door.
Clarification of Answer by
11 Mar 2003 16:45 PST
>> Is it 60% of those present or 60 members who must vote
to end the debate?
It is 3/5ths (60%) of the full Senate, which is 60 votes.
"At the convening of almost every Congress from 1961 until 1975,
attempts were made to reduce the vote required to invoke cloture to
three-fifths of Senators present and voting. On most of these
occasions, opponents mounted a filibuster against a motion to proceed
to consider a measure to change the rule. Supporters attempted to
overcome these filibusters by asking the chair to rule that the
Senate's constitutional power to make its rules required it to be able
to reach such questions by majority vote. Although they sometimes
obtained favorable rulings, they were never able to achieve a change
by using this argument.
During this time, several compromise proposals were developed,
including: (1) applying the reduced requirement only to appropriation
bills and conference reports; (2) reducing the majority required on
each successive cloture vote; (3) requiring the needed majority to
include a majority of each party; and (4) substituting a requirement
of three-fifths of the full Senate (60 votes).
In 1975, this last proposal, originated by then Majority Whip Robert
C. Byrd, was adopted for most measures, but the two-thirds requirement
was retained to limit debate on measures changing the Senate's
United States House of Representatives
>> Senator Frist's office said that they keep calling for
>> cloture and they think that this may ultimately work. . . ?!
>> If it has not worked. . what would make them think it would work!
I doubt that anyone actually expects calling for cloture to do much.
Otherwise, it would be rather like the old definition of insanity:
doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.
Perhaps Senator Frist hopes that if things are dragged out long
enough, angry constituents will force some action.
>> Is there something magic about cloture votes that I am not getting?
From what you've said, I think you have as good a grasp on the
situation as is possible in these circumstances. Unfortunately, this
is rather like trying to grasp Jello-O.
>> I am still looking for that boombox that will record in
My old Panasonic RX-DS30 that had this capability (the one I mentioned
to you before) has gone to boombox heaven. A cat knocked it onto the
floor, and something inside must have been damaged, because now it
won't turn on. If I ever see anything online that I think would meet
your needs, I'll post it as a clarification to your other question,
and Google Answers will send you an email pointing out that there's a
clarification. Since I am online about ten hours a day, I often come
across useful information for a former customer while working on
something totally different.