The Filibuster: Hypocritical Bi-Partisan Duplicity of the Most Transparent Sort


 Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"

Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”

Wouldn’t you just know it; the venerable Senate filibuster is back in the news. The Maine Sunday Telegram on December 9 featured a “Maine Voices” column on the subject. Terms like “the nuclear option” and “the constitutional option” were on display.

Senator Chuck Schumer, that unctuous 55-gallon drum of sanctimony, is trying to ride the fence on the issue, claiming the filibuster is vital to senate operation, but that “Republicans are abusing it.” This loosely translates to “Hey, we Democrats want to use the filibuster any way we please, but you Republicans should go pound sand.”

You can always count on Chucky to lobby for an unfair advantage. The same talking point was advanced by the author of the column cited above. Funny how that works.

Whenever I hear the term filibuster, visions of Senator Foghorn Cleghorn come to mind. Or perhaps Senator Bobby Byrd in his prime, bloviating for hours on end in his stentorian style, pomposity on full display. Others may envision Jimmy Stewart’s role as Mr. Smith, as the “Maine Voices” column did, but not me.

Frankly, the thought of Harry Reid, who comes across as the Head Mortician of the Senate, negates any illusion that a Jimmy Stewart type could have a meaningful role in our government.

The nagging question now is where our newly elected Senator, Angus King, will leave his footprints in the sand on this beach. What a perfect challenge for Mr. Independence, the self-described solver of intractable problems. Never mind that he quickly confirmed his liberal Democrat loyalties when he announced he’d caucus with Reid’s embalmers. Let the burial of the American founding proceed as planned.

At times like this, when things seem confused, we know that we can rely on the New York Times to clarify things. So I did a bit of research and came up with this:

A January 1, 1995, New York Times editorial on proposals to restrict the use of Senate filibusters said this:

In the last session of Congress, the Republican minority invoked an endless string of filibusters to frustrate the will of the majority. This relentless abuse of a time-honored Senate tradition so disgusted Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, that he is now willing to forgo easy retribution and drastically limit the filibuster. Hooray for him. . . . Once a rarely used tactic reserved for issues on which senators held passionate views, the filibuster has become the tool of the sore loser . . . an archaic rule that frustrates democracy and serves no useful purpose.

A March 6, 2005, New York Times editorial on the same subject read thusly:

The Republicans are claiming that 51 votes should be enough to win confirmation of the White House’s judicial nominees. This flies in the face of Senate history . . . To block the nominees, the Democrats’ weapon of choice has been the filibuster, a time-honored Senate procedure that prevents a bare majority of senators from running roughshod . . . The Bush administration likes to call itself “conservative,” but there is nothing conservative about endangering one of the great institutions of American democracy, the United States Senate, for the sake of an ideological crusade.

Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

At least on the editorial pages of our elite media, who for better or worse serve the willfully uninformed.

By Pem Schaeffer, Maine Wire contributor, retired systems engineer and business development leader. He blogs at  and can be contacted at


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