The New House Filibuster

I would bet that the sit-in tactic used yesterday by the House Democrats will become more common over time.  It’s pretty easy to find 50 House members who feel strongly about something and would be willing to tie up the chamber and rotate in protest.  The Speaker in these situations would be loathe to use the Sergeant-At-Arms to arrest these members or bar them from the chamber–that would look awful. And if social media can broadcast the protest even when the House is in recess, then there is no disincentive to do this other than the physical discomfort. (Sure, those broadcasts violated the House rules, but again, I doubt that the majority will do anything about that.)

Granted, this was not a true filibuster in that the Speaker was able (by ignoring the shouts of protest) to conduct business, but of course only very limited business can be conducted if the well of the House is occupied and speakers cannot be heard.

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14 Responses

  1. Brett Bellmore says:

    Yes, they’re generally loath to turn the sergeant at arms on their own members. But another proposal that’s been floated is to just dump some stuffed animals and juice boxes on the floor by them, snap a pic, and post it. Underlining just how childish they’re behaving.

  2. Shag from Brookline says:

    I assume Brett had similar views on the sit-ins during the civil rights movement

  3. Brett Bellmore says:

    No, because “exposing injustice”, and “having a tantrum because you can’t impose it” are wildly different things.

    Let’s be clear about what they were protesting: Not the Republicans’ refusal to allow 2nd amendment rights to be compromised. Their refusal to allow them to be compromised without any procedural safeguards.

    This wasn’t a civil rights protest. It was an ANTI civil rights protest. They were having a hissy fit about NOT being able to violate civil rights.

    The fact that it’s a civil right you don’t happen to like doesn’t change that.

  4. Shag from Brookline says:

    No, Brett, it was not a tantrum. They sought a vote, not a demand that certain bills be approved by the House, but a vote on the floor. Congress is dysfunctional. When Congress is dysfunction, civil rights are diminished. Brett was a youngster during the civil rights movement. But based upon his comments here and particularly at Balkinization he has expressed strong reservations about the civil rights movement, especially regarding public accommodations, a matter that the sit-ins of the civil rights movement brought to the fore. It seems that Brett’s concept of civil rights is centered on 2nd A absolutism.

    • Brett Bellmore says:

      Yes, I basically agree with Goldwater’s position at the time: The government should not, must not, discriminate, and this extends to any private firm that the government has granted a monopoly. But private individuals and companies should be free to discriminate, even though they shouldn’t do so.

      Freedom is what lives in the space between what you ought to do, and will be compelled to do, what you should refrain from, and will be punished for doing. I don’t want to live in the “Everything that’s not forbidden is mandatory.” dystopia. I want to live in a free country.

    • Brett Bellmore says:

      “They sought a vote, not a demand that certain bills be approved by the House, but a vote on the floor.”

      The nature of the bills they wanted to vote on is hardly irrelevant to this discussion, and your implication that they wanted them voted on so that they could vote against them is laughable.

      They were protesting the Republicans not allowing a vote on laws to attack civil liberties. That’s the ugly truth: When the ACLU and the NRA are both saying you’re wrong, you’re probably wrong.

  5. Shag from Brookline says:

    And so did many others”want to live in a free country” going back to 1787, being denied the freedom of white (especially male) supremacy. Efforts with the civil rights movement following Brown v. Bd. of Educ. (1954) for leveling the playing field were challenged after almost 200 years by white privilege. You don’t like the changing demographics. It’s not really freedom but supremacy that Brett needs as he fears the competition on the playing field.

  6. Joe says:

    Republicans “allowing a vote on laws to attack civil liberties” happens a lot, but Brett really cares about this issue more than others & supports one side, so THIS time it’s “childish” to voice to strong views of the people who voted them & a large chunk of the country.

    As to the merits, I personally find the terror watch list proposals problematic but that isn’t the only thing on the table. Background checks was on the table. Funding on the effects of gun violence. And, other measures. Plus, like Garland, if the policy is wrong, VOTE AGAINST IT. Because again, not allowing votes for something that threatens civil liberty? Not really a standard rule. .

    • Brett Bellmore says:

      I’m not in any way obligated to support everything Republicans do, and many of the responses to 9-11, such as the creation of DHS, were rife with stupidity.

      Still less, then, am I obligated to support Democrats when they attempt to double down on something stupid Republicans did.

      The no fly list, as implemented, was a horrible idea. Now Democrats want to expand the horrible, by using the arbitrary secret list to violate even more rights. But not the right to vote, because allowing terrorists to vote is important. [/sarcasm]

      And again, they were actually offered the chance to add gun purchases to the things people on these lists could be denied. They turned to offer down, because it involved fixing the lists so that there would be some actual due process involved.

      “Background checks was on the table.” The Orlando killer PASSED the background checks. He was a security guard employed by DHS! And you think the problem is a lack of background checks? Stop the magical thinking: Black markets exist, so background checks can’t keep people from getting guns.

      Let’s be clear what’s wanted here: Anti-gunners are upset that private sales don’t require background checks, for two reasons: First, because if you’re not a gun dealer, you can’t run the background check, so you need to pay a gun dealer to do it for you. That raises the cost of buying guns, and anti-gunners like anything that makes guns more expensive. Second, because background checks can be abusively used to create lists of gun owners, and the anti-gun movement is desperate to know who owns what guns, because so long as they don’t have that information, confiscation is impractical.

      Which is exactly why we won’t let them have that information.

      “Funding on the effects of gun violence.” The CDC was engaged in manufacturing anti-gun propaganda. Congress properly told them to quit it. If the anti-gun movement wants to churn out anti-gun propaganda, let them pay for it themselves. Anyway, the Center for Disease Control studying gun crime makes as much sense as the FBI funding studies on kidney disease. Not their area of expertise.

      What was childish about this, is staging a catered sitdown protest in a place where they were entitled to sit down, and where chairs were available. Protest theater, and remarkably stupid protest theater.

      • Joe says:

        Try to be more responsive. You said something was not done because it was a threat to civil liberties. Republicans support having votes on that sort of thing all the time. It is a specific subject matter that was opposed & even there various things on the table were not threats to civil liberties. Your replies basically shows this by again changing the subject. Your concern that various proposals are not specifically tied to this tragedy is therefore a tad ironic.

        A specific event being a catlyst for more general discussion on a range of issues is a standard thing. A fire happens. The result is reactions that include general concerns that various safety problems have not been addressed. What do we say? “Sorry, that wouldn’t have stopped the fire. Not germane!” No.

        The fact that some small subset of the supporters of a policy has sentiments that one might deem bad is also a general thing. Background checks have wide support, including among gun owners. “Anti-gunners” are not the only ones who support them, including as seen by various elected officials who are also gun owners that have no problem with them. As with thirteen year olds getting guns, it is not “magical thinking” to support them just because they are not perfect. Background checks in general have shown to be a useful device, even though like all laws, they are not panaceas.

        You also attack gun research in various ways, again going past the “threat to civil liberty” original comment. First, propaganda and general research is not the same thing, even if the results of research in some cases don’t favor a specific cause in some fashion. Even the supporter of the Dickey Amendment later changed his mind. Second, gun violence is in part a public health issue, something the CDC (see their mission statement) addresses. This includes the concerns of suicides, mentally ill people using violence and the health issues of usage of certain types of ammo. In relevent cases, guns are relevent in medicine contexts and research can be useful. The opposition here, as one gun rights supporter at Sentencing Law and Policy notes, is gratutious.

        Finally, sitting on the floor wasn’t the only part of the protest, but political theater is a thing — has been since before the American Revolution. It is far from “childish” — it repeatedly, including for causes you care about, can (and here — the vitriol alone is telling — has been) been a powerful tool for causes. Basically, you oppose it on the merits. Which is fine. They represent millions of Americans, however, that disagree with you. They were voted in to represent their interests.

        • Brett Bellmore says:

          “First, propaganda and general research is not the same thing, even if the results of research in some cases don’t favor a specific cause in some fashion.”

          That’s right, propaganda and general research aren’t the same thing, and the CDC wasn’t prohibited from engaging in general research. They were specifically prohibited from generating propaganda.

          And, make no mistake, they’d been generating propaganda. They’d announced right up front their goal was to justify gun bans. BEFORE they did the ‘research’.

          There’s a need for good research on the topic. There’s no need for the sort of thing the CDC was doing.

  7. Joe says:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/in-orlando-as-usual-domestic-violence-was-ignored-red-flag-20160613?page=2

    Would this have stopped him specifically? I don\’t know. But, domestic violence has been addressed more in recent years, and if (who knows since it won\’t be perfect, they still can get them on the black market) we want to keep guns from violent criminals, more can be done here.

  8. ruralcounsel says:

    In 1995, House Democrats spent a few hours on the floor in protest of a budget that House Republicans passed. In 2008, House Republicans seized the floor in August for the entire recess to demand Democrats let them vote on oil drilling to lower $4-a-gallon gas prices. They ended up getting a vote, but more because Democrats feared the sit-in would endanger Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

    The big difference is that this time, the Republicans didn’t shut off the lights on the sit-in. Rather civilized of them, actually.

    • Joe says:

      guess 50 people dead and civil rights leader John Lewis leading things might have had something to do with it … not quite oil drilling