My Passion for US Politics by Leonardo

My Passion for US Politics by Leonardo

The Filibuster in the US senate

In June 2016 there was a shooting in Orlando, Florida. A radicalised local man entered the Pulse nightclub and killed 49 people. I was 10 years old at the time. I remember asking my dad why it was that people kept dying in these shootings, why the government hadn’t done anything to stop them; Orlando, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Columbine. No one seemed to do anything about them. He answered with two words which, at the time, I didn’t understand: The Filibuster. 

 

Origins and Racist Roots

The Filibuster is an archaic senate rule introduced - by accident - in the 1790s when the US senate removed the rule which required half of the votes to close a debate. This was seen as unnecessary since if the motion could pass it required a majority anyway. What these senators didn’t realise, however was that another rule had been left in, essentially requiring a ⅗ majority to end any debate, and so The Filibuster was born. This strange rule was discovered by southern senators in the 1840s and quickly began to be used to block any legislation that would impact southern slavery. 20 years later however, the United States fought a 4-year civil war which, for a while at least made The Filibuster quite unpopular.

 

Continued Racism and the Civil rights Movement

The Filibuster’s roots in racism would not be forgotten however, in the early 1950s under president Eisenhower southern senators dug up the old rule and began using it just as their predecessors had 50 years earlier. For many black southerners it was as if they had been whisked back in time and for most, the irony was too much. The civil rights movement had started and in 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, but not before the act was delayed for many months and many compromises were made. Many politicians, especially on the right, realised that this was a useful tool to maintain the status quo even if people were being hurt in the process. Throughout the second half of the 20th century and up to the present day, The Filibuster has been used increasingly, much to the detriment of the more recent presidential administrations.

 

Executive Orders and Modern Issues

Executive orders were created as ordinances the president could make directly for short term aid or relief, which didn’t require a separate bill to pass through congress, or for extremely controversial and important policies that could never expect to reach the senate floor. Now they are used for Foreign Policy, immigration and healthcare, areas much too broad for short executive orders to deal with, leading to confusion and of course; hundreds and thousands of lawsuits. Moreover, because of their short term nature they were exceedingly easy to reverse just as fast as they were issued. This has destabilised modern American politics because any long-term law is quickly watered down in the Senate and any strong executive order is quickly reversed. This has never been more clear than in the now infamous Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) where even with an absolute majority in both houses, President Barack Obama could not include a government-funded ‘public option’ to the US healthcare system.