Author Archives: gkelly13

The Death of the Filibuster—What Does it Mean?

For the past few days, I’ve been seeing a barrage of stories about the Senate’s recent reform of filibusters in the news, and I realized that I didn’t completely understand  what these changes actually were—or what they were going to mean in the long run—and decided to take the time to learn some more about it. For those of you that don’t know, a filibuster is when a member of the Senate attempts to prevent a certain bill or measure from reaching a vote by talking for a very long time. In the past, some senators have resorted reciting the Constitution, reading the phone book, or even reading Shakespeare aloud to pass time during their filibuster. A Senator can speak for as long as they wish and about whatever they want, as long as they don’t sit down or leave the Senate floor for bathroom, food, or drink break. The only time they are allowed to stop speaking is to answer questions.

The Senate has a “cloture rule” which allows Senators to vote to end a filibuster—this previously meant that sixteen members must initiate the cloture, and then 3/5 of the Senate must vote on it. If the cloture is passed, then the Senate can only debate the issue for a maximum of 30 more hours and no Senator may speak for more than 1 hour in this period.


President Obama has criticized filibusters in the past for wasting the time of the Senate and resulting in a grid-locked Congress. While the Senate has threatened to impose the nuclear option (changing the Senate cloture rule to merely a majority rule instead of 3/5) in the past, they never actually followed through—until two weeks ago. This decision essentially forbids the minority Senate party from ever filibustering a presidential nominee.

Although I understand that a dead-locked Congress has been the root of most of the problems that our government has faced in recent months, I’m not sure if this is the right solution.

Freedom of speech is one of the basic tenets in our country, and our Senate has followed this principle by allowing unrestricted debate for the entirety our nation’s history. There have been many times when it seemed that opposing parties would never reach a compromise—regarding the National Bank, the nullification crisis, the list goes on—yet they always did; it just took time. That’s exactly what our founding fathers anticipated when they designed our government. Not only does the Senate equally represent each state, but it is also supposed to allow everyone an equal opportunity to voice their opinions. Without filibusters, there is nothing stopping the majority party from taking over every Senate decision.

Also, the decision to enforce the nuclear option is coming from Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader of the Senate. It’s obvious that the minority Republicans are not happy about this, and I think it will only serve to increase tensions between the two parties. If the Republicans happen to gain control of the Senate in next year’s midterm election, I think the Democrats could be in serious trouble.

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Posted by on December 11, 2013 in Default


Can the Government Shutdown Really Be Stopped?


For the past few days, it seems that all any news outlet has been able to talk about is the government shutdown—and the impending doom if an agreement is not soon reached.

Although I think that congressmen have the responsibility to represent the desires of their constituents, when it gets to the point that nothing gets accomplished because both parties are sticking so strongly to their respective sides, it does more harm then good to the people of the U.S.

Right now, it’s important for Congress to compromise. It’s apparent that nothing is going to get done in the current state, and with each day that passes, our country is slipping into deeper trouble—for example, federal employees aren’t getting paid, national parks, the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell have been shut down, the Center for Disease Control and NASA are closed, and the FDA  has suspended food safety inspections. Plus, if the government shutdown lasts until October 17th (which is quite possible, considering the current stalemate), our treasury will reach the limit of its borrowing authority. It’s unknown what exactly would happen if this occurred, but it certainly would not be good. This past May, we reached our debt ceiling ($16.7 trillion), and have just barely been scraping by for the past few months. If our government still has not reached a decision by October 17th, the stock market could potentially plummet and it’s possible that we may not be able to pay back key foreign investors like China.

The moderate Republicans hold the key to forging an agreement here. In recent years, the gap between the more centrist members and the extreme right-wing members of the GOP has been widening, and I think this government shutdown is a wake up call for the Republican party. The party’s base has become increasingly rightist and in order to relate to younger generations and gain support of a larger majority of the country, they need to come together and re-adjust their core priorities towards something more moderate and refrain from making social conservatism one of their main focuses. Otherwise, they could steadily lose their influence in government.

Apparently, some of the House Republicans have said that they would be in favor of a ‘clean’ spending bill, a two month budget that would make no references to defunding the Obamacare law, buying the government more time to get their act together (although at this point, it doesn’t seem like any amount of time could help them sort out this issue, since both parties are resolute in their opinions).

Moreover, I think the Democratic party also needs to be willing to compromise. The root of this whole problem is the Affordable Care Act, and if a large enough majority of the country is against this bill that it can result in a government shutdown, then maybe this bill isn’t the best idea for our country. The reason our Founding Fathers divided the Congress into the House and the Senate was so that the latter would check the former (the House is supposed to represent the “will of the people”, while the Senate represents the states). In this case, the majority-Republican House is refusing to approve any funding of the government without the elimination or delay of Obamacare.

Obviously, this entire situation is very closely tied to what we just finished learning in class. The shutdown clearly demonstrates the power of checks and balances within the Congress, yet, unfortunately, these checks are preventing anything from actually getting done. While reading about the shutdown, I was also reminded of what James Madison wrote about political parties in “Federalist Paper #10”, saying that factions are unavoidable in a democracy, but can also be its downfall.

Even though I’ve only been in this class for a couple of weeks, I feel I’ve already gained a better understanding of how our country works. It’s fascinating that even though our country has been around for almost 250 years, the problems that our government faces today are almost identical to those that our Founding Fathers dealt with. Thanks to AP Gov, I already feel so more in touch with what’s going on in the news. We certainly chose a good year to learn about U.S. government—between the conflict in Syria and the government shutdown, we’ve been able to see a lot of the principles discussed in our textbook come into play outside the classroom!


Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Default