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I. AGD: In a tyrannical society, the will of majority is overruled by the whims and fancy of an often corrupt small minority. However, imagine a democracy where a small minority or even just one person had the power to stop all progress that of the majority.
II. TRS: Today, let’s discuss how the abuse of the U.S. Senate Filibuster is turning our majority democracy into a dysfunctional society run by a special-interest controlled minority.
III. SS: According to Nation Magazine, July 19, 2010, as few as 41 senators, potentially representing only 15 percent of the population, have the power to block any bill, amendment or nominee. In other words, a minority has the power to stop what the majority wants.
IV. Preview: To help us see the need for the reform of the U.S. Senate Filibuster, let’s first look at the serious problem of the current process, then some of the main causes and finally some possible solutions.
I. Transition: First let’s begin by looking at how the current U.S Senate Filibuster process is a serious problem.
Internal Preview: To better understand how serious this problem is, let’s first look at the scope of the problem, then how it affects us in our everyday life and finally how it negatively impacts the entire country.
A. One big problem with how the filibuster is used is that it allows for a small minority to overrule the majority.
1. Alexander Hamilton in “Deficiencies of the Confederation”, December 14, 1787 said that this would “destroy the energy of government” and to substitute the pleasures and corruption of a dictatorship, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.
2. Even one Senator can shut down all progress.
a. According to SFGate.com, March 1, 2010, Sen. Jim was able to launch a one-man filibuster to block a 30-day extension of unemployment, COBRA insurance benefits and 41 transportation projects across the country- impacting hundreds of thousand Americans.
B. Another problem is that the filibuster is being overused and abused in the Senate.
1. According to WashingtonPost.com, November 25, 2009, the filibuster has gone from affecting 8 percent of big bills in the 1950s to 70 percent in 2009.
C. Lastly, it is a detriment to the republic.
1. According to New Yorker, August 9, 2010, a Senator who has been in the Senate since 1979 once said that his leadership wouldn’t allow him to end the filibuster–even on a matter of national security.
2. Vice President Joe Biden said at a Florida fundraiser on January 17, 2010, “This is the first time every single solitary decision has required 60 senators…No democracy has survived needing a supermajority.”
Summary Transition: Now that we’ve seen how serious this is, let’s move on to some causes of this problem.
II. There are three main causes of this filibuster problem.
Internal Preview: To better understand these causes, let’s first look at how rabid partisanship, then how personal vendettas is a factor and finally how C-SPAN factors in.
A. One cause is extreme partisanship, even at the expense of the country.
1. The filibuster is a game used by both parties to disrupt the party in power’s ability to govern- making voters annoyed enough to punish those in power.
B. A second cause is Senators trying to settle personal vendettas.
1. On WashingtonPost.com, on December 14, 2009 Ezra Klein said that Senator Lieberman seems primarily motivated to settle an old electoral score when threatening to oppose a bill that he himself once proposed during the Health Care debate.
C. A third cause is when C-SPAN went on the air.
1. According to New Yorker, August 9, 2010, with C-SPAN, bipartisan coalitions in the Senate vanished. Senators could no longer withstand pressures from outside the walls of the chamber.
2. As money and cameras rushed in, independent minds fell more and more in line with their partisan base coalitions.
Summary Transition: Now that we’ve looked at some of the causes, let’s now look at some possible solutions.
III. There are three ways to fix this problem.
Internal Preview: To help us learn more about an end to this problem, let’s first look at what government can do, then what we as a society can do and finally what each individual can do.
A. One solution that Government can implement is to change the Senate filibuster rules.
1. Senator Tom Harkin proposed in Nation Magazine, July 19, 2010, that would allow the minority to maintain its rightful power to debate but would that power to eventually end in minority rule.
B. As a society, we must hold our Senators accountable and stop rewarding them for these games.
1. According to Forward.com, January 13, 2010, there’s no price to pay for these stalling tactics.
2. Despite how disruptive it is to governance, it seems to work. Using this tactic, democrats won majorities in the Senate in 2006 and Republicans picked up six seats in 2010.
C. One thing you can do as an individual is to sign this reform letter campaign.
I. Review: Today we looked at the need for the reform of the U.S. Senate Filibuster by first looking at the serious problem of the current process, then some of the main causes and finally how we can help make positive changes through reform.
II. Link back to AGD:
III. Lasting thoughts: Think of all the serious problems our country faces, do we really have the luxury to allow politicians to play silly games with our laws without any consequences? Take action today!