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Pabon: Filibuster "cowardly" — yet Dems have a history, too

Posted by Michael Sandoval on January 4th, 2011
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At a Monday rally on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol, progressives and Democratic party officials alike took to the podium, inveighing against what they saw as the abuse of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate, citing failed legislation blocked in that body over the last few years.

As a crowd of approximately 100 held signs declaring “Majority Rules” and “End the Filibuster Now,” each speaker leveled charges of minority obstruction. That followed a letter sent by liberal activists to the state’s two U.S. Senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, calling the procedure- along with the tactic of a “secret hold” (where one Senator may anonymously block a piece of legislation)- “anti-democratic limitations on majority rule, which bring cynicism and continued inaction.” Udall and Bennet have joined all of their fellow Democratic Senators in calling for reform, hesitating to call for an outright end to the practice.

Wednesday is the one day every two years when U.S. Senate rules allow for rule changes with only a simple majority vote of 51.

On Monday, Colo. state Rep.-elect Dan Pabon, D-Denver, echoed other speakers at the rally to look at history, and pointed to the use of the filibuster by a bill’s opponents as “cowardly devices” employed by Senators “too chicken to debate”:

“There is no doubt that the use of the filibuster has become increasingly used to stop good law from being debated,” said Pabon. “Its use has increased exponentially, as you all know, in the last four years. But let’s not forget our history, and the use of our opponents’ tactics for the last sixty.

“These same dilatory tactics were used in the late 40s, when there was debate of the 1948 Civil Rights Act to repeal the Jim Crow laws. Again, these cowardly devices were used to stop the passage of the Civil Rights bill of 1964, ending legal discrimination in housing and employment.

“There is an insidious theme going on here. When there is legislation of any kind that brings civil rights to our nation, when our laws give any kind of hope to the hopeless or shed light of freedom and opportunity on our land, our opponents hide behind these procedural rules because they’re too chicken to debate the merits of these proposals.”

While the use of the filibuster to oppose major civil rights legislations between 1948-1964 is all too true, it was Democrats who led the obstruction.

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman, a Democrat, integrated the armed forces by executive order, and support for civil rights by fellow Democrat Hubert Humphrey precipitated the “Dixiecrat” party led by Strom Thurmond, then the Democratic governor of South Carolina.

Thurmond, elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in the 1950s, staged the longest individual filibuster in 1957 (more than 24 hours), against the Civil Rights Act introduced that year, according to U.S. Senate history.

Another Democrat-led filibuster lasting the better part of six straight days (24/7, with one break), occurred in 1960, again in opposition to a civil rights bill. The landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act endured a 57 day filibuster, including a 14 hour segment by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.), and cloture was achieved for only the second time since 1927, a span of 37 years. This marked the first time that a filibuster on civil rights legislation was ended.

The 67 elected Democrats split 44-23 for cloture, requiring substantial Republican support to overcome the then two-thirds vote requirement (67 of 100) necessary to end debate. Except for the 80th (1947-1949) and 83rd (1953-1955) Congresses, Democrats held control of both chambers for the entire period. For the entire decade from 1959 to 1969, Democrats never held fewer than 64 Senate seats.

There may be legitimate arguments to be made for filibuster reform. But if Pabon’s use of the term “our opponents” means Republicans, it’s a misreading of history to cite earlier civil rights legislation as an example.

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  • Post by Michael Sandoval on January 4th, 2011

One Response to “Pabon: Filibuster "cowardly" — yet Dems have a history, too”

  1. mkburge says:

    It’s funny how the Dems conveniently forget that fact. Sheets Byrd and company, now we’re supposed to believe they are the party of Civil Rights? Gimme a break lol!

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