Transforming the Electoral Oligarchy of the United States of America into a participatory democracy

A question about the filibuster

So, the Democrats assumed the majority in both Houses this year, apparently at least in part due to changing public opinion about the conflict in Iraq.  Yet Congress has not been able to get any substantive measure passed to reduce troop levels or end the conflict, even force a veto, much less actually change our course there.  One of the reasons for this has been the Republican filibuster in the Senate.   Most recently, they apparently stopped the Webb-Hagel Amendment that would have forced the military to give active duty military equal time at home to recover following any tour of duty in Iraq, and reservists and National Guard members two or three years at home for each year served in active duty.  Some of you may know the specifics of the matter better than I do, and I will not be offended if you want to help clarify the issue in comments. However, what I really want to talk about is the nature of the filibuster itself.

I guess I’m naive, and don’t watch enough CSPAN, but it seems to me that the filibuster is a measure that prevents cloture, which is to say, that it prevents ending debate on the issue at hand.  It does not kill debate, or kill the issue, but rather extends debate…right? So, why then does the Republican filibuster against the Webb-Hagel Amendment indicate that the amendment has been “defeated,” as has been reported so often already? Instead of defeating it, it seems to me that the filibuster should indicate that either the amendment should still be being debated, or some other measure, such as tabling, or referring to committee, should be required before the Senate can move on to another topic. Have they done something along these lines?

While it makes some sense that a large minority should be able to keep something from moving forward to a final vote prematurely, and that is a legitimate use of the filibuster, but it should not be able to kill anything, unless it is continued long enough to get either more people to vote for cloture, or more people to vote against the measure. However, if something has at least 50% support, but less than 60%, then it should stay on the floor until it is resolved in some way.

So, if there is somebody reading this who understands, and can explain to me, how simply failing to get 60% on one single vote constitutes a filibuster and somehow kills a measure that has majority support, I would really appreciate it.


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