On February 7, 1950, a Senate filibuster led to the abandonment of efforts to reestablish the Fair Employment Practice Committee.
In 1941, Franklin Roosevelt created the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC) to assure that defense workers were not discriminated against for reasons of “race, creed, color, or national origin.” In 1946, the executive order which created FEPC expired. Efforts to reinstate it failed in Congress due to a filibuster in the Senate.
The filibuster is a legislative rule unique to the Senate in the United States whereby by a senator can stop the vote on a bill by speaking in front of the senate and refusing to yield their time. In order to stop a filibuster today the senate must have 60 votes to interrupt the speaker and move to vote on the bill.
Originally, a filibusters required that the senator physically stand, and there are no bathroom or other breaks allowed. It is rumored that Rand Paul wore a catheter during a thirteen-hour filibuster in 2013.
Today, however, there is usually less drama, as there are less taxing methods of delaying or stopping votes without holding the floor, and of one party knows there aren’t enough votes to compel a vote, the issue is removed from consideration. But while actual filibusters are rarely successful, this one was in 1950.
- The filibuster is one of many means which allow a minority of senators to stop legislation. In that respect, it is undemocratic. Is the U.S. stronger, or weaker, as a result of such “undemocratic” practices?
- Do you believe that if filibustering is allowed, the physical requirements should be reinstated? What role do such rules play in a democracy?
- The Founding Fathers were skeptical of pure, majoritarian democracy. Do you share their skepticism? Why, or why not?