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Notes on a Filibuster: Bernie Sanders inspires Senate reform

Morgan Buck18 January 2011

Senator Bernie Sanders, outspoken socialist and author of the acclaimed Outsider in the House, is still in the news for his mid-December harangue on tax cuts in the Senate. Now over a month later, the "near-filibuster" has inspired a new wave of debate over reforms to filibuster policy which could greatly affect the dynamic of Senate decision-making.

Promising to speak for "as long as I can to explain to the American people the fact that we have got to do a lot better than this agreement provides," Senator Sanders spent over eight hours criticizing President Obama's proposed tax-cut deal and accusing the Right of blatant hypocrisy in their approach to national finance.

Although Sanders was not successful in blocking the tax-cut deal, he has inspired a renewal of the current debates over Senate filibuster policy. Essentially, the current reform proposal would limit the power of minority parties to stall Senate with silent filibusters and filibuster threats. These tactics have been used increasingly in recent years by both sides when in the minority. Their overwhelming recent use by minority Republicans is often blamed for slowing more progressive policies and for overall dysfunction in the Senate. While Sanders is not necessarily supportive of current proposals, he has gone on record in support of some type of filibuster reform.

In his 1996 Outsider in the House, Sanders provides insight into his career as Burlington mayor and four-term independent congressman, as well as the progressive views that have made him such a noteworthy figure in contemporary politics.

Visit Mother Jones to read more on filibuster policy reform.

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