Thursday, March 7, 2013


The #StandWithRand hash-tag has been trending on Twitter recently in response to Rand Paul's 13 hour Mr-Smith-Goes-To-Washington-style filibuster of the nomination of John Brennan to be the Director of Central Intelligence.  Senator Paul wanted more information on the Obama administration's assertion that it could use deadly force on US soil without warrant or due process and so he went to the Senate floor.

Filibusters are certainly not new to the Senate -- in fact, in recent years there have been record numbers of them obstructing almost everything the Senate has sought to do -- but those have been procedural filibusters.  No one actually had to go onto the Senate floor and talk to keep those filibusters going.  Procedural filibusters take place on paper without any grandstanding, any speaking, and any attempt to address an issue; their purpose is to impose a super-majority requirement, nothing more.

In this, Rand Paul's filibuster was different.  Paul went to the Senate floor because he had something to say.  Paul came to the debate with the support of the right -- anyone that opposes anything Obama does has that from the outset -- but he attracted support from the left as well.  Partially that was because the expansion of Presidential power is something many liberals have been concerned about since the Bush years but Paul also drew that support because his real-life-filibuster proved that the procedural system isn't necessary.

Paul's filibuster is what the Senate should be.  The upper house should be a deliberative body in which impassioned arguments can be made and the issues considered but it should also be one in which the business of the nation can progress unhindered by partisan bickering.  The filibuster is important; it makes Senators the elder statesmen they should be by giving them enormous personal authority over the legislative body of which they are part.  But the filibuster must also be demanding; as we have seen in recent years, if the nation's business can be brought to a halt on a single Senator's whim then the partisan rancor on Capitol Hill can rapidly reduce the US Government to a state of permanent gridlock.

Rand Paul showed Americans, wittingly or unwittingly, that there can be another way.  It is time to bring back filibuster reform.

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