Politics: The Filibuster

Greg Koger is an Assistant Professor of American Politics at the University of Miami. He recently posted a really good description of several arguments for the filibuster and the requirement of a supermajority to override it. Beyond that it delves into some of the inner political workings of the house and senate in relation to special interests, constituents, party politics, etc. Really interesting stuff.

He presents a crazy hypothetical that I found an interesting case of possible political maneuvering where the republicans present a single-payer amendment:

Imagine, for example, that health care reform comes to the House floor under an open rule (any amendment allowed) and the Republicans offer an amendment setting up a single-payer government health care system. If the amendment is adopted by a coalition of sincere liberals ( who think a single-payer system is ideal) and strategic Republicans (who vote for a position contrary to their conservative views in order to defeat the bill), then the bill would probably fail on final passage; moderate Democrats and Republicans would oppose a single-payer system, leaving liberal Democrats supporting a defeated bill.


4 Responses to “Politics: The Filibuster”

  1. John Jensen Says:

    That isn’t too hypothetical, actually. It’s happened before with Iraqi withdrawal timetables, I believe.

    But the House is much more polarized than the Senate, so I’m not sure we’d see the same type of jockeying. I don’t know if majority rule is appropriate for the Senate, but I do know that the 60 vote barrier is inappropriate. Perhaps requiring an *actual* filibuster and not a procedural one is a good step. Maybe lowing cloture to 56 Senators.

  2. Josh Wittner Says:

    Why exactly is 60 inappropriate, but 56 is not?

  3. John Jensen Says:

    Because 60 is just as arbitrary as 67 which is just as arbitrary as 56. But a lower arbitrary number makes the body more representative for the majority of the nation because it dilutes the influence of the tiny percentage of the population which 41 Senators can represent.

  4. Josh Wittner Says:

    I haven’t done the math, so we’ll take Koger’s at value, but he states:

    “Advocates on both sides of the debate can use the Senate’s malapportionment to their advantage: senators representing just 17.7% of the nation’s population can form a majority in the Senate, while senators representing less than one-sixth of the national population can defeat a cloture motion.”

    So it seems like population representation is not a strong argument for any specific number of votes when it comes to Senate.

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