EXPLAINER: What’s the Senate filibuster and why change it?

EXPLAINER: What’s the Senate filibuster and why change it?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans are poised to use a filibuster to derail Democrats’ effort to launch a bipartisan probe of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The showdown will be the first vote this year when the GOP has used the delaying tactic to try killing major legislation. Yet while the GOP seemed certain to succeed Thursday, their victory may prod Democrats closer to curbing or eliminating a legislative tactic that’s been the bane of Senate majorities since the Founding Fathers. Here’s a look at the filibuster, how it works and the current political firestorm over it. WHAT’S A FILIBUSTER? Unlike the House, the Senate places few constraints on lawmakers’ right to speak. Senators can also easily use the chamber’s rules to hinder or block votes. Collectively these procedural delays are called filibusters. Senate records say the term began appearing in the mid-19th century. The word comes from a Dutch term for “freebooter” and the Spanish “filibusteros” that were used to describe pirates. Filibusters were emblazoned in the public’s mind in part by the 1939 film, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” in which Jimmy Stewart portrayed a senator who spoke on the chamber’s floor until exhaustion. In a real-life version of that, Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., stood continuously by his desk for 24 hours and 18 minutes speaking against the 1957 Civil Rights Act, the longest Senate speech by a single senator for which there are records of speaking length. Those days are mostly gone. Senators usually […]

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