by Matt Fleming | February 27, 2016 2:55 pm
SAN JOSE, CA- Loretta Sanchez, a candidate for U.S. Senate, says she does not support reforming or eliminating the filibuster, a tactic senators can use to single-handedly block or prolong a legislative action.
It is said that the filibuster — a procedural tool that blocks a vote — protects the minority from the tyranny of the majority. And Sanchez, a Democratic congresswoman from Orange County, knows what it’s like to be in the out-of-power minority, as she currently is in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where majority rules.
“In the House of Representatives, I’ve seen what it is to have a lop-sided, winner take all system, and it hasn’t benefited Americans,” Sanchez said in an interview at the California Democratic Party Convention.
The filibuster refers a long-standing Senate tradition. While it’s changed over the years, in modern times it usually means blocking the 60-vote threshold required to advance a bill.
There is also a standing filibuster — made popular in the 1939 movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” — where a Senator holds the floor as long as he or she is standing, thereby delaying action on a bill. The standing filibuster is rarely used nowadays though.
In 2013, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., reduced the 60-vote threshold to a simple majority on most presidential nominations, excluding those for the Supreme Court.
Republicans in the House of Representatives, and a few in the Senate, have been calling for more filibuster changes as Senate Democrats have used the procedure to block legislation and gain leverage (the same thing Republicans did in the minority) — like forcing a budget deal at increased spending limits last year. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has so far been reluctant to change the rules further.
“When you’re in power in the Senate, you don’t much like the filibuster,” said Sanchez. “But when you’re out of power in the Senate, all of a sudden it’s your good friend.
Sanchez’s top opponent, Democrat Kamala Harris, California’s attorney general, has not responded to requests for comment.
It’s changed over the years. It was largely the standing filibuster before, where a senator could hold the floor as long as they could stand up, delaying a vote on a bill.
The longest standing filibuster was in 1957, when Strom Thurmond, a southern Democrat, held the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes in opposition of the Civil Rights Act.
A few years ago, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spoke for more than 21 hours straight. However, it technically wasn’t a filibuster because it didn’t delay a vote. Cruz had arranged an certain amount of time with Reid, and ended when he was supposed to.
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