Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
Gone are the days of an exhausted Senator Smith valiantly holding down the senate floor. To filibuster today, a senator can literally phone it in. This makes filibustering too easy, which in turn has paralyzed the senate.
Democratic senators are pushing to change the filibuster rules, and it appears that change will happen. But it's looking like majority leader Harry Reid will ignore considerable support in the senate for a proposal that would end the silent filibuster, and opt instead for a watered-down version that Republicans prefer—one that would let the silent filibuster survive. Democratic senators are caucusing on the issue today, and a vote in the senate may also happen today. It may be the most important vote cast during President Obama's second term.
In his inaugural address yesterday, Obama said: "Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time—but it does require us to act in our time. For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay."
But the senate has been unable to act, and the silent filibuster is largely responsible.
Obama also said: "You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time—not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals."
At present, though, lifted voices are too easily silenced by the silent.