Thursday, November 18, 2004

Let's Have a Good Old-Fashioned Filibuster

I still like the idea of having structures like the Senate that slow down the government, but these "filibusters" where Senators don't do anything more than refuse to vote are just cowardly. If they want to fight, let's have a good old-fashioned filibuster, a spectacle before the cameras. As Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute puts it:

Back in the 1950s, when filibusters against civil rights bills were almost routine, the Senate would force the filibusterers to take to the floor and go around the clock, bringing the Senate to a halt and letting the public see what was going on. The way to overcome intense minorities is to do just that. If anything, the live television feeds on C-SPAN would make the images even more resounding today. If the filibusterers' actions are outrageous and unsupportable, let the public react. Their resolve will eventually be broken.

Last year, Senate Republicans took a faux step in this direction with a 35-hour debate to highlight the issue. But it wasn't serious.

So get serious. When Democrats filibuster Miguel Estrada or Priscilla Owen, make them take to the Senate floor around the clock. Stop every other Senate action. Set up cots outside the Senate floor, just as Johnson, then-Majority Leader, did in 1957 and 1958. The press will eat up the drama.

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