Filibuster: Wikis

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A filibuster (also known as speaking or talking out a bill) is a type of parliamentary procedure. Specifically, it is a form of obstruction in a legislature or other decision-making body whereby one attempts to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a proposal.

The term "filibuster" was first used in 1851. It was derived from the Spanish filibustero, which translates as "pirate" or "freebooter." This term had evolved from the French word flibustier, which itself evolved from the Dutch vrijbuiter (freebooter). This term was applied at the time to American adventurers, mostly from Southern states, who sought to overthrow the governments of Central American states, and was transferred to the users of the filibuster, seen as a tactic for pirating or hijacking debate.[1]

Contents

Ancient Rome

One of the first known practitioners of the filibuster was the Roman senator Cato the Younger. In debates over legislation he especially opposed, Cato would often obstruct the measure by speaking continuously until nightfall.[2] As the Roman Senate had a rule requiring all business to conclude by dusk, Cato's purposefully long-winded speeches were an effective device to forestall a vote.

Cato attempted to use the filibuster at least twice to frustrate the political objectives of Julius Caesar.[2] The first incident occurred during the summer of 60 B.C., when Caesar was returning home from his propraetorship in Hispania Ulterior. Caesar, by virtue of his military victories over the raiders and bandits in Hispania, had been awarded a triumph by the Senate. Having recently turned 40, Caesar had also become eligible to stand for consul. This posed a dilemma. Roman generals honored with a triumph were not allowed to enter the city prior to the ceremony, but candidates for the consulship were required, by law, to appear in person at the Forum.[2] The date of the election, which had already been set, made it impossible for Caesar to stand unless he crossed the pomerium and gave up the right to his triumph. Caesar petitioned the Senate to stand in absentia, but Cato employed a filibuster to block the proposal. Faced with a choice between a triumph and the consulship, Caesar chose the consulship and entered the city.

Cato made use of the filibuster again in 59 BC in response to a land reform bill sponsored by Caesar, who was then consul.[2] When it was Cato's time to speak during the debate, he began one of his characteristically long-winded speeches. Caesar, who needed to pass the bill before his co-consul, Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, took possession of the fasces at the end of the month, immediately recognized Cato's intent and ordered the lictors to jail him for the rest of the day. The move was unpopular with many senators and Caesar, realizing his mistake, soon ordered Cato's release. The day was wasted without the Senate ever getting to vote on a motion supporting the bill, but Caesar eventually circumvented Cato's opposition by taking the measure to the Tribal Assembly, where it passed.

Westminster-style democracies

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United Kingdom

In the Parliament of the United Kingdom, a bill defeated by a filibustering manoeuvre may be said to have been "talked out." The procedures of the House of Commons require that members cover only points germane to the topic under consideration or the debate underway whilst speaking. Example filibusters in the Commons include:

  • In 1874, Joseph Gillis Biggar started making long speeches in the House of Commons to delay the passage of Irish coercion acts. Charles Stewart Parnell, a young Irish nationalist MP, who in 1880 became leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, joined him in this tactic to obstruct the business of the House and force the Liberals and Conservatives to negotiate with him and his party. The tactic was enormously successful, and Parnell and his MPs succeeded in, for a time, forcing Parliament to take the Irish question of return to self-government seriously.
  • In 1983, Member of Parliament (MP) John Golding talked for over 11 hours during an all-night sitting at the committee stage of the British Telecommunications Bill. However, as this was at a standing committee and not in the Commons chamber, he was also able to take breaks to eat.
  • In January 2000, filibustering orchestrated by Conservative Members of Parliament to oppose the Disqualifications Bill led to cancellation of the day's parliamentary business on Prime Minister Tony Blair's 1000th day in office. However, since this business included Prime Minister's Question Time, Conservative Leader William Hague was deprived of the opportunity of a high-profile confrontation with the Prime Minister.
  • On Friday, 20 April 2007, a Private Member's Bill aimed at exempting Members of Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act was 'talked out' by a collection of MPs, led by Liberal Democrats Simon Hughes and Norman Baker who debated for 5 hours, therefore running out of time for the parliamentary day and 'sending the bill to the bottom of the stack.' However, since there were no other Private Member's Bills to debate, it was resurrected the following Monday.[3]

The all-time Commons record for non-stop speaking, six hours, was set by Henry Brougham in 1828, though this was not a filibuster. The 21st-Century record was set on December 2, 2005 by Andrew Dismore, Labour MP for Hendon. Dismore spoke for three hours and 17 minutes to block a Conservative Private Member's Bill, the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Protection of Property) Bill, which he claimed amounted to "vigilante law."[4] Although Dismore is credited with speaking for 197 minutes, he regularly accepted interventions from other MPs who wished to comment on points made in his speech. Taking multiple interventions artificially inflates the duration of a speech, and is seen by many as a tactic to prolong a speech.

Australia and New Zealand

Both houses of the Australian parliament have strictly enforced rules on how long members may speak, so filibusters are generally not possible there.[5][6]

In 2009, several parties in New Zealand staged a filibuster of the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill in opposition to the government setting up a new Auckland Council under urgency and without debate or review by select committee, by proposing thousands of amendments and voting in Māori as each amendment had to be voted on and votes in Māori translated in to English. Amendments included renaming the council to "Auckland Katchafire Council" or "Rodney Hide Memorial Council" and replacing the phrase powers of a regional council with power and muscle.[7][8] These tactics were borrowed from the filibuster undertaken by National and ACT in August 2000 for the Employment Relations Bill.[9]

Canada

Most attempts at stalling legislation are usually just for show and last a relatively short period of time. But in 1997, the opposition parties in Ontario tried to prevent Bill 103 from taking effect, setting in motion one of the longest filibustering sessions Canada had ever seen.

A unique form of filibuster was pioneered by the Ontario New Democratic Party in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in April 1997. To protest Progressive Conservative government legislation that would amalgamate Metro Toronto into the city of Toronto, the small New Democratic caucus introduced 11,500 amendments to the megacity bill, created on computers with mail merge functionality. Each amendment would name a street in the proposed city, and provide that public hearings be held into the megacity with residents of the street invited to participate. The Ontario Liberal Party also joined the filibuster with a smaller series of amendments; a typical Liberal amendment would give a historical designation to a named street. The NDP then added another series of over 700 amendments, each proposing a different date for the bill to come into force.

The filibuster began on April 2 with the Abbeywood Trail amendment[10] and occupied the legislature day and night, the members alternating in shifts. On April 4, exhausted and often sleepy government members inadvertently let one of the NDP amendments pass, and the handful of residents of Cafon Court in Etobicoke were granted the right to a public consultation on the bill, although the government subsequently nullified this with an amendment of their own.[11]

On April 6, with the alphabetical list of streets barely into the Es, Speaker Chris Stockwell ruled that there was no need for the 220 words identical in each amendment to be read aloud each time, only the street name.[12] With a vote still needed on each amendment, Zorra Street was not reached until April 8.[13]

The NDP amendments were then voted down one by one, eventually using a similar abbreviated process, and the filibuster finally ended on April 11.[14]

Conservative Member of Parliament Tom Lukiwski is known for his ability to stall Parliamentary Committee business by filibustering.[15][16] Examples of his ability include speaking for almost 120 minutes to prevent the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development from studying a private member's bill to implement the Kyoto Accord on October 26, 2006,[17][18][19] as well as speaking for about 6 hours during the February 5, 2008 and February 7, 2008 Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs meetings to block inquiry into allegations that the Conservative Party spent over the maximum allowable campaign limits during the 2006 election.[20][21][22][23][24]

Other

The Northern Ireland House of Commons saw a notable filibuster in 1936 when Tommy Henderson (Independent Unionist MP for Shankill) spoke for nine and a half hours (ending just before 4 AM) on the Appropriation Bill. As this Bill applied government spending to all departments, almost any topic was relevant to the debate, and Henderson used the opportunity to list all of his many criticisms of the Unionist government.

In the Southern Rhodesia House of Assembly, the Independent member Dr Ahrn Palley staged a similar all-night filibuster against the Law and Order Maintenance Bill in 1960.

United States

House of Representatives

In the House of Representatives, the filibuster (the right to unlimited debate) was used until 1842, when a permanent rule limited the duration of debate. The disappearing quorum was a tactic used by the minority until an 1890 rule eliminated it. As the membership of the House grew much larger than the Senate, the House has acted earlier to control floor debate and the delay and blocking of floor votes.

Senate

In the United States Senate, rules permit a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless "three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn"[25] (usually 60 out of 100 senators) brings debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXII. According to the Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Ballin (1892), changes to Senate rules could however be achieved by a simple majority.[26] Nevertheless, under current Senate rules, a rule change itself could be filibustered, and in this case votes from two-thirds of the Senators present and voting would be required to break the filibuster.[25] Despite this written requirement, the possibility exists that the filibuster could be changed by majority vote, using the so-called nuclear option. In current practice, actual continuous floor speeches are not required, although the Senate Majority Leader may require an actual traditional filibuster if he or she so chooses.[27]

France

In France, in August 2006, the left-wing opposition submitted 137,449 amendments[28] to the proposed law bringing the share in Gaz de France owned by the French state from 80% to 34% in order to allow for the merger between Gaz de France and Suez.[29] Normal parliamentary procedure would require 10 years to vote on all the amendments.

The French constitution gives the government two options to defeat such a filibuster. The first one was originally the use of the article 49 paragraph 3 procedure, according to which the law was adopted except if a majority is reached on a non-confidence motion (reform July 2008 resulted in this power being restricted to budgetary measures only). The second one is the article 44 paragraph 3 through which the government can force a global vote on all amendments it did not approve or submit itself.[30]

In the end, the government did not have to use either of those procedures. As the parliamentary debate started, the left-wing opposition chose to withdraw all the amendments to allow for the vote to proceed. The "filibuster" was aborted because the opposition to the privatisation of Gaz de France appeared to lack support amongst the general population. It also appeared that this privatisation law could be used by the left-wing in the upcoming presidential election of 2007 as a political argument. Indeed, Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP - the right wing ruling party), Interior Minister, former Finance Minister and President, had previously promised that the share owned by the French government in Gaz de France would never go below 70%.

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary - "filibuster," retrieved February 14, 2007
  2. ^ a b c d Goldsworthy, Adrian (2006). Caesar: Life of a Colossus. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 583. 
  3. ^ BBC News
  4. ^ BBC News - "MP's marathon speech sinks bill," retrieved February 14, 2007
  5. ^ Parliament of Australia - Standing Orders and other orders of the Senate, retrieved June 23, 2008
  6. ^ Parliament of Australia - House of Representatives Standing and Sessional Orders, retrieved June 23, 2008
  7. ^ "Melissa Lee Memorial Council" mooted - Newstalk ZB
  8. ^ Labour filibuster on Supercity bills | Stuff.co.nz
  9. ^ "Employment bill to drag on another day
  10. ^ Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Hansard. Wednesday, 2 April 1997, volume B.
  11. ^ Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Hansard. Friday, 4 April 1997, volume H.
  12. ^ Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Hansard. Sunday, 6 April 1997, volume N.
  13. ^ Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Hansard. Tuesday, 8 April 1997, volume S.
  14. ^ Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Hansard. Friday, 11 April 1997, volume AE.
  15. ^ Alexander Panetta. "Tory's loose lips an asset - until now". The Canadian Press. http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/409983. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  16. ^ Catherine Clark, Tom Lukiwski (July 27, 2009). "Beyond Politics interview (at 19:11)". CPAC. http://www.cpac.ca/forms/index.asp?dsp=template&act=view3&pagetype=vod&lang=e&clipID=2996. 
  17. ^ "Parties trade blame for House logjam". The Canadian Press. http://www.thestar.com/article/111918. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  18. ^ "Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development". Parliament of Canada. October 26, 2006. http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=2440684&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=39&Ses=1#Int-1732248. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  19. ^ Mike De Souza. "Tories accused of stalling their own green agenda". www.canada.com. http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=963fa80f-2996-46c4-8696-6df2034365f8&sponsor=. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  20. ^ "Angry chairman suspends session". www.canada.com. http://www.canada.com/reginaleaderpost/news/story.html?id=04f4ea3b-6cdd-4cca-8aba-78710c4a8733. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  21. ^ "Tories accused of stalling ad scheme review". www.canada.com. http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=90e06005-f60c-4f46-b668-6015e7fffebc. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  22. ^ Kady O'Malley. "Filibuster ahoy! Liveblogging the Procedure and House Affairs Committee for as long as it takes...". www.macleans.ca. http://forums.macleans.ca/advansis/?mod=for&act=dip&pid=104503&tid=104503&eid=48&so=1&ps=15&sb=1. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  23. ^ Kady O'Malley. "Liveblogging PROC: We’ll stop blogging when he stops talking – the return of the killer filibuster (From the archives)". www.macleans.ca. http://www2.macleans.ca/2008/02/07/liveblogging-proc-well-stop-blogging-when-he-stops-talking-the-return-of-the-killer-filibuster-from-the-archives/. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  24. ^ Kady O'Malley. "Liveblogging the Procedure and House Affairs Committee for as long as it takes... (Part 3)". www.macleans.ca. http://forums.macleans.ca/advansis/?mod=for&act=dip&tt=&pid=104551&tid=104551&eid=48&so=&ps=&sb=&tso=&tps=&tsb=. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  25. ^ a b "Precedence of motions (Rule XXII)". Rules of the Senate. United States Senate. http://rules.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=RuleXXII. Retrieved January 21, 2010. 
  26. ^ U.S. v. Ballin, 144 U.S. 1, 5 (1892).
  27. ^ Beth, Richard; Stanley Bach (March 28, 2003). Filibusters and Cloture in the Senate. Congressional Research Service. pp. 4, 9. http://lugar.senate.gov/services/pdf_crs/Filibusters_and_Cloture_in_the_Senate.pdf. 
  28. ^ "TIMELINE: Key dates in Gaz de France-Suez merger". Reuters. 2 September 2007. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL0257250120070902. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  29. ^ Kanter, James (19 September 2006). "Plan for Gaz de France advances toward a vote". International Herald Tribune. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/19/business/worldbusiness/19iht-gdf.2868154.html. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  30. ^ "France - Constitution". International Constitutional Law. http://servat.unibe.ch/icl/fr00000_.html. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 

Media

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

FILIBUSTER, a name originally given to the buccaneers. The term is derived most probably from the Dutch vry buiter, Ger. Freibeuter, Eng. freebooter, the word changing first into fribustier, and then into Fr. flibustier, Span. filibustero. Flibustier has passed into the French language, and filibustero into the Spanish language, as a general name for a pirate. The term "filibuster" was revived in America to designate those adventurers who, after the termination of the war between Mexico and the United States, organized expeditions within the United States to take part in West Indian and Central American revolutions. From this has sprung the modern use of the word to imply one who:engages in private, unauthorized and irregular warfare against any state. In the United States it is colloquially applied to legislators who practise obstruction.


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