COLUMN: The filibuster is outdated and needs to go


Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks January at a Texas Public Policy Foundation meeting at the Hilton Austin in Austin, Texas. Ted Cruz read the entirety of "Green Eggs and Ham," quoted television show "Duck Dynasty" and impersonated Darth Vader in a 21-hour-long filibuster in 2013. Tribune News Service

“I do not like Green Eggs and Ham. I do not like them Sam I Am.”

Ted Cruz, R-Texas, passionately recited this line on the Senate floor as he spoke out against the Affordable Care Act in 2013. Yes, this classic line was an actual talking point in Ted Cruz’s 21-hour-long filibuster where he read the entirety of "Green Eggs and Ham", quoted "Duck Dynasty", and impersonated Darth Vader. Beyond the absurdity, the filibuster is an obsolete procedure that needs to end.

The filibuster has been a nuisance since its inception. In Senate procedure, if the senator is recognized, he or she can speak for as long as he or she pleases. This can lead to politicians delivering marathon speeches which become filibusters. The only way to limit the time a person can speak is to pass cloture with at least 60 Senate members, a difficult number to attain. This sabotage halts legislation usually expected to pass or at its very best just provides a cheap opportunity for a senator to show off for political points.

Proponents of the filibuster argue that it offers a way to protect minorities, a means to prevent the “tyranny of the majority.” In fact, the longest filibuster in United States history belongs to Senator and infamous segregationist Strom Thurmond, D-South Carolina. Thurmond spoke a full 24 hours and 18 minutes protesting the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

Ultimately, Thurmond’s grandstanding didn’t halt the bill or even change the Senate's mind as the Civil Rights Act of 1957 set the stage for the expanded 1964 bill of the same name. However, one fact remains clear: his filibuster threatened minorities’ rights. This also includes stalling anti-lynching laws for almost 100 years. Filibustering provides a backhanded opportunity for outdated, fringe ideas and beliefs to take center stage.

Presidential candidate and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., an ardent opponent to the filibuster, has further defined this notion. She talks about how the filibuster “puts small-minded partisanship ahead of solving the massive problems facing this country.” The hum-drumming of party politics is only emboldened by the presence of a filibuster when bills are brought to the Senate.

Even though Leslie Knope of "Parks and Recreation" fame may look spectacular as she filibusters in roller skates, the outdated practice just feeds into the public notion that nothing gets done in government and allows political hacks to cling onto relevancy. It’s time we force candidates on both sides of the aisle to recognize this antiquated practice and exile the filibuster into the ash heap of history.

In the end, I decided to honor Cruz and wrote a poem:

I do not like the filibuster. I hate it so.

I do not like it. It needs to go.

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