"It's not a rule of debate. It's a rule of silence, a rule of censorship." - Emmet J. Bondurant, lead attorney in the lawsuit against the United States Senate, calling the filibuster rules unconstitutionalSometimes it seems like the filibuster holds up every bill, motion and nomination that comes to the floor of the U.S. Senate. Last week, though, President Obama signed into law a bipartisan bill that bypasses the Senate for nearly 170 executive nominees and 3,000 Officer Corps positions. But that does little to raise the hope that Congress' "legislative inertia," which Justice Antonin Scalia joked about during oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act, is going to budge in any significant way.
The abuse of the filibuster, and its affect on the dysfunction of our legislative branch, is the number one reason that Congress is regarded with such low esteem by the American public.
Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant made some news last spring, when he filed a lawsuit, in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Common Cause, members of Congress, and others, seeking to throw out the filibuster rule in the Senate on Constitutional grounds. Speaking to a group from the Georgia Lawyers chapter of the American Constitution Society, in his hometown, last Wednesday, Bondurant laid out his case for the better part of an hour, like an attorney making a presentation in a federal courtroom, except with PowerPoint slides, and without interruptions from the bench.
Bondurant acknowledged that the U.S. Constitution allows the Senate to set its own rules for debate, but, he insisted, the filibuster rule, as it has evolved, does not promote debate. "The filibuster promotes obstruction," he said. "It promotes hypocrisy."
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