“Depending on how a ‘talking filibuster’ is structured, a group of senators could hold the floor for days or even weeks. Nothing could get done — no nominations or bills or treaties — since this faction would control the floor,” writes John Bresnahan of Punchbowl News. “That’s why when Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) changed the rule in 1972 so that there could be ‘silent filibusters.’ This allowed Senate business to continue while a filibuster was conducted on another track. It was considered a key reform at the time. Mansfield also changed the cloture threshold from 67 to 60 in 1975.”
In the Capitol, I’ve spoken with several Democratic senators who support changing to a talking filibuster, but not one gave a plausible explanation of how such gridlock would be avoided.
Massachusetts senator Ed Markey tells National Review that switching to a talking filibuster would be “a good start.” Asked why a talking filibuster wouldn’t result in even more gridlock, Markey expressed confidence that the bills Republicans would filibuster would have the overwhelming support of the American people. “These would not be ordinary bills. These would be bills of paramount importance to every citizen,” Markey says. “It would be the bill to ensure voting rights for all minorities. It would be the bill to make sure that we save the planet from climate change.”
But in all likelihood, a three-week debate over any of the Democrats’ top legislative priorities would not end in Republicans caving because such a debate would probably make the legislation less popular.