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Don't Eliminate the Filibuster, Restore It

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Cross-posted from The Nation

Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

"If you haven't got men who have learned to tell human rights from a punch in the nose..."
-- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington , 1939

The filibuster should not be eliminated.

It should be restored.

This is the great takeaway from the muddled debate over how to restore a measure of functionality to the US Senate.

For the past four years the Senate has made a mockery of the concept of majority rule. Though Democrats have held a clear majority in the chamber, they have been blocked at almost every turn by Republicans who have used what is referred to as the "filibuster" to prevent consideration of legislation, nominations and just about everything else the President Obama and the Democrats dare to propose.

But the Republicans have not used the filibuster as Americans recognize it.

Rather they have used a filibuster fantasy to impose the will of the minority on the majority.

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The filibuster has no constitutional or statutory grounding. It is established and defined by Senate rules.

Historically, the filibuster existed as a protection against the silencing of the minority. Under the rules of the Senate, a member or group of members who did not have the votes to prevent approval of a piece of legislation could demand to be heard in opposition. Ideally, the traditional theory went, this avenue of dissent could prevent a rush to judgment.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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