Wednesday 27 January 2010
The Filibuster is a honoured safeguard of the rights of the minority against the majority. This safeguard has existed at Westminster and in Congress - though weakened in all but the Senate. The reason that filibusters have become more difficult (or impossible) to mount in most chambers, is that abuse of the filibuster led to decisions to reduce the power.
It remains in the Senate - and is there under threat for the same reason. A tool designed for rare occasions has become the everyday tool of resisting the overwhelming majority. The Irish Nationalists in the 19th Century weakened the rights of minorities in Parliament for ever, over a cause that is no longer an issue. Demonstrating is one thing, but when a legislative body is unable to function, action needs to be taken. Unless some Senators start treating this exceptional power with respect, they will force changes that will hurt minorities, and the Senate itself - forever.
This article appeared in "The Hill" last week.