Scott Cox Blog
by Scott Cox
posted Oct 1 2013 10:07AM
This week saw Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, speak for 21 hours plus on why his fellow republicans should vote to defund Obamacare. He also mixed in some Star Wars references and a reading of Green Eggs And Ham. Nice. Had he kept yammering for another couple of hours, he would have passed up the times of the all-time filibuster kings- Wayne Morse from Oregon went 22 hours plus in 1953, trying to stop something called the Tidelands Oil Bill, and Alfonse D'Amato, who bloviated for 23 hours plus against the military spending bill of 1986. Had Cruz wasted an entire day (plus 18 minutes, he would have broken the filibuster record, held by Strom Thurmond, who spent all that time in his effort to derail the 1957 civil rights bill. The problem is, Cruz wouldn't have been eligible anyway. His singular act of defiance wasn't technically a filibuster. It was more of a profile-raising exercise for his future political aspirations. And it will work. People admire that kind of political theater. Well, half do. See, people see these stupid things as some kind of one-man battle against tyranny, or oppression or whatever. I blame Jimmy Stewart. If his character, Jefferson Smith, hadn't been so engaging in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, we probably wouldn't tolerate filibusters at all. They're basically just a way to exploit a loophole that allows elected officials to blabber on until the clock runs out on a debate. Like a basketball player dribbling for an hour after his team goes up 2-0. The Senate needs a shot clock.
Here's the truth about filibusters- our founding fathers didn't write them into the Constitution at all. They're a loophole, discovered by a Senator named John Calhoun in 1841. He discovered that there was no rule forcing him to stop, so he just kept going until there was no time for dissent. And he did it all in defense of slavery. No wonder filibusters are evil. They started out that way. The reason I say that only half of people hate these things is because they're only frowned upon when used by the party you didn't vote for. I'll wager that most of the people who were cheering Ted Cruz on were not quite so supportive of D'Amato in '86, or more recently when Democrat Wendy Davis went 13 hours straight on the floor of the Texas State Housetrying to stop Texas' sweeping abortion bill. Conversely, the folks who hailed her as heroic were likely unimpressed when fellow Texan Cruz took his shot. The reason these filibusters are so ridiculous is that they never work. Davis knew she had no chance to derail that Texas abortion bill, and Ted Cruz, fresh off his filibuster, promptly voted with the democrats on Obamacare. And, interestingly enough, Davis will be running for Governor in Texas, and i'm sure that Cruz has greater political aspirations as well. And they'll always be known for their personal contributions to the phony, idiotic bit of political grandstanding known as the filibuster. Thanks a lot, Jimmy Stewart.