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Sorry, Harry Reid Can't Make The Republicans Filibuster

HuffPo's excellent Ryan Grim debunks one of the most frustrating myths in Washington: that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a big weenie for failing to force Republicans to "actually" filibuster bills they don't like.

I like the filibuster as a concept, but it ought to be hard for the minority party to pull off. It should be reserved for situations when the minority feels very, very strongly about a bill, and so there need to be strong disincentives to filibuster; i.e., you ought to have to read from a phone book all night long. But that's not how it works. Parliamentary rules surrounding the filibuster's implementation adopted in 1917 make it essentially impossible to force the minority to mount the filibuster of our imaginations. Here's Grim:

[O]nly one Republican would need to monitor the Senate floor. If the majority party tried to move to a vote, he could simply say, "I suggest the absence of a quorum." The presiding officer would then be required to call the roll. When that finished, the Senator could again notice the absence of a quorum and start the process all over. At no point would the obstructing Republican be required to defend his position, read from the phone book or any of the other things people associate with the Hollywood version of a filibuster.

A quorum is 51 senators -- meaning that it's actually more inconvenient for the majority to sustain a filibuster situation, since to make a quorum they have to keep dragging 50 of their own to the chamber, while the minority only needs to keep one man present.

--Eve Fairbanks