The National Constitution Center has a great new We the People podcast on the filibuster. The discussion between Josh Chafetz and Jay Cost sheds an incredible amount of light on the history of the filibuster—including that something like it was first used in the House, not the Senate. It’s also just a fascinating discussion of the development of the filibuster, how it fits within American institutions more broadly, and how it functions today. While Chafetz and Cost disagree about the filibuster in today’s politics, they both agree with Jeff Tulis that the “talking filibuster” is much better than the current filibuster, … Continue reading Understanding the Filibuster
The July 14th debate illustrates well the disagreement about whether this federal government would be a union of the States or a Union of the states. It’s hard for us now to recover fully this dispute because, after the Civil War, it became clear to everyone except the state of Texas that the national government was supreme in sovereignty to the state governments. The state governments persisted and have never been treated simply as functionaries of the national government, but there was no longer a question of ultimate supremacy. By contrast, prior to the Civil War, almost all documents say … Continue reading July 14: How Federal Would the Federal Government be?
Adam Jentleson has an essay at The Atlantic on the problems of minority rule and the filibuster. The filibuster is often justified as fostering deliberation, requiring the building of broad and complex majorities that cross the partisan divide. It might be particularly defensible when it comes to the appointment of judges—requiring 60 senators to approve of such lifetime appointments. But that’s no longer the case. In point of fact, as Jentleson shows, the filibuster really serves to empower a minority veto on routine lawmaking. It owes far more to the thinking of John Calhoun than James Madison: “In his Disquisition on Government, Calhoun complained … Continue reading Calhoun, Madison, and Minority Rule