What does filibuster rule mean outside of Washington?

Senate Democrats voted this week to change the rules for closing a filibuster, creating a collective “Harrumph!” from Republicans so large that it threatened to knock over the Washington Monument that had been weakened by Superstorm Sandy last year.

We doubt that few people outside of the U.S. Capitol know or care much about the filibuster and what the rule change means.

In a nutshell, a filibuster give the minority party a means of slowing down and delaying legislation or the approval of a presidential appointment. In years gone by, senators could delay action on a measure by taking the floor and talking as long as they possibly could.

But then someone got the idea that the rule should be changed so that a Senator could simply declare a filibuster and the measure would be tabled until the other side came up with 60 votes to close the debate. Again, it was rarely used, until the Obama Administration came along and Republicans lost the majority in the Senate. Since Obama took office they have used the filibuster an average of 14.4 times to block a presidential nomination, a rate 50 times higher than the 1952 to 2008 average.

So now, a simple majority is required to cut off a filibuster, which means Republicans will be minimalized, cut out of the process until they can win the majority, which is kind of how the Founding Fathers meant the system to work in the first place.

What is the impact outside of the beltway? It will be easier for the president to get his nominees appointed to judicial posts and administrative positions. These appointees may be more favorable to his positions and will carry out the president’s policies, but again, that’s how the government is supposed to work. Republicans will have to win more elections, especially the White House, if they want to have things done their way.

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