Filibusters do occur in some state legislatures, but they rarely succeed in blocking legislation. Unlike the U.S. Senate, most state legislatures still operate on the Founders’ majoritarian principles.
No holiday season would be complete without a homage to Jimmy Stewart and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But as Congress once again appears gridlocked on critical issues like voting rights, perhaps Stewart’s famous filibuster in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is also worth another look. The use of the technique by Stewart’s character, U.S. Sen. Jefferson Smith, was portrayed in the 1939 film as heroic, a celebration of the “common man” and an effort to protect the minority against the tyranny of the majority.
But Jefferson Smith’s 25-hour “talking filibuster” is nothing like how it is practiced today in D.C., whereby a single senator can compel almost any measure to gain 60 votes for passage — or even debate. Today’s Senate filibuster is an anti-majoritarian and opaque process that does not even require a senator to speak against a bill to prevent its passage.
To argue for a change or abolition of the filibuster is perceived in some circles as almost anti-American. Yet most democratic assemblies in this country do not have anything resembling the present approach to the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. In fact, most state legislatures have enacted rules that make filibustering to kill legislation almost impossible, and only seven states mirror U.S. Senate rules in requiring the votes of 60 percent of their members to end debate. None allow the “silent filibuster” that is found in Congress.
Read the full article at Governing Magazine.