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A filibuster (also known as talking out a bill) is a type of parliamentary procedure. Specifically, it is a form of obstruction in a legislature or other decision-making body whereby a lone member can elect to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a proposal.
The term “filibuster” was first used in 1851. It was derived from the Spanish filibustero, which translates as “pirate” or “freebooter.” This term had evolved from the French word flibustier, which itself evolved from the Dutch vrijbuiter (free outsider). This term was applied at the time to American adventurers, mostly from Southern states, who sought to overthrow governments in Central and South America. Later the term was applied to the users of the filibuster, which was viewed as a tactic for pirating or hijacking debate.
House of Representatives
In the United States House of Representatives, the filibuster (the right to unlimited debate) was used until 1842, when a permanent rule limiting the duration of debate was created. The disappearing quorum was a tactic used by the minority until an 1890 rule eliminated it. As the membership of the House grew much larger than the Senate, the House has acted earlier to control floor debate and the delay and blocking of floor votes.
In the United States Senate, rules permit a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless “three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn” (usually 60 out of 100 senators) brings debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXII. This means that 41 senators, which could represent as little as 12.3% of the U.S. population, can make a filibuster happen. According to the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Ballin (1892), changes to Senate rules could be achieved by a simple majority. Nevertheless, under current Senate rules, a rule change itself could be filibustered, and in this case votes from three fifths of Senators would be required to break the filibuster filibustering a bill to remove filibusters. Despite this written requirement, the possibility exists that the filibuster could be changed by majority vote, using the so-called nuclear option. (Proponents also refer to it as the constitutional option.) Even if a filibuster attempt is unsuccessful, the process takes floor time. In recent years the majority has preferred to avoid filibusters by moving to other business when a filibuster is threatened and attempts to achieve cloture have failed.
Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary
fil·i·bus·ter noun \ˈfi-lə-ˌbəs-tər\
Definition of FILIBUSTER
1: an irregular military adventurer; specifically : an American engaged in fomenting insurrections in Latin America in the mid-19th century
a : the use of extreme dilatory tactics in an attempt to delay or prevent action especially in a legislative assembly
b : an instance of this practice
Origin of FILIBUSTER
Spanish filibustero, literally, freebooter
First Known Use: 1851
(Oxford English Dictionary)
3. U.S. One who practises obstruction in a legislative assembly: see filibuster v. 2.
1889 Boston (Mass.) Jrnl. 14 Jan. 2/2 A humiliating ‘treaty’ with a single determined filibuster.
4. An act of obstruction in a legislative assembly. Chiefly U.S.
1890 Congress. Rec. 11 Feb. 1217/2 A filibuster was indulged in which lasted‥for nine continuous calendar days.
1915 Morning Post 13 Feb. 8/3 It has been decided‥to suspend the filibuster in order to attend to important appropriations.
1917 Daily Chron. 5 Mar. 1/7 The bill‥was talked to death. Its last hours were spent in a filibuster against Senator Lafollette.
2. U.S. To obstruct progress in a legislative assembly; to practise obstruction.
1853 Congress. Globe 4 Jan. 194/1, I saw my friend‥filibustering, as I thought, against the United States.
1882 Sir M. Hicks Beach in Standard 24 Mar. 3/2 The objectionable practices of ‘filibustering’ and ‘stone-walling’.
1885 Boston (Mass.) Jrnl. 20 Feb. 2/3 Ex-Confederates Filibuster to Prevent a Vote on the Bill.
27 November 1851, Pennsylvania Freeman (Philadelphia, PA), Political Items, pg. 3:
Several Democratic papers in Ohio have united in presenting the name of Hon. WIlliam Allen of that State (formerly U.S. Senator) as a candidate for President. He is some what inclined to the filibuster way of doing things.
4 February 1863, New York (NY) Herald, “Financial and Commercial,” pg. 2:
The probability is that the Senate committee will filibuster just long enough to gain credit as hard money men, and will then yield to necessity and authorize more paper.
31 January 1866, New York (NY) Herald, “The State Capital,” pg. 5:
Mr PIERSON, (rep.) of Kings, earnestly opposed the motion, saying he could conceive of no motive for it unless made in a disposition to filibuster the bill.
4 January 1871, Harrisburg (PA) Patriot, “Washington,” pg. 1, col. 1:
It has been intimated that unless opportunity is allowed for a discussion, that the opponents of the measure will filibuster to delay action.
The Slang Dictionary:
Etymological, historical, and anecdotal
By John Camden Hotten
London: Chatto and Windus
Filibuster, an American adventurer, who, if successful, helps to extend the boundaries of the United States, becomes a General, and receives high honours, but who remains a FILIBUSTER, and is despised as such, if he fails. The Texan, Nicaraguan, and kindred expeditions were of a FILIBUSTERING order.
18 February 1874, Alexandria (VA) Gazette, pg. 2:
CONGRESS.—(...) The minority then began to filibuster for a reconsideration of the vote, and the House adjourned before the snarl into which it had worked itself was untangled.
6 January 1875, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Gazette, “XLIII Congress—Second Session,” pg. 3:
In the House, Mr. Butler, of Mass., moved to take up the civil rights bill, in place of the army appropriation bill then before the House. The Democrats objected, fearing the passage of the former bill, if reached, and avowed a determination to filibuster to prevent the passage of the civil rights bill, if it took all the session. Leaving the question unsettled, the House adjourned.
Dictionary of Americanisms:
A glossary of words and phrases usually regarded as peculiar to the United States.
By John Russell Bartlett
Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company
Filibuster. (Spanish, filibustero.) A freebooter. A word brought into common use in consequence of the expeditions against Cuba under Lopez in the year 1851, to the members of which expedition it was applied. it is from the Spanish filibustero, which, like the French flibustier, is itself a corruption of the English freebooter, German freibeuter, a term imported into England during the Low Country wars of Queen Elizabeth’s time, and pretty generally applied to the Buccaneers who ravaged Spanish America about 1680-90. An attempt has been made to deduce the etymology of the word from the Low Dutch vlie-boot, i. e. fly-boat, a sort of Dutch clipper.
Quizzism and its Key:
Quirks and quibbles from queer quarters, a melange of questions in literature, science, history, biography, mythology, philology, geography, etc., etc., with their answers
By Albert Plympton Southwick
Boston, MA: New England Pub. Co.
What is the origin of “Filibuster”?
Max Muller states that filibuster, the signification of which is a freebooter or pirate, is derived from the Spanish word flibote, a fast-sailing vessel; and that the Spanish word itself is a corruption of the English word flyboat. Filibuster is a word of Spanish origin about synonymous with buccaneer, In Holland is a little river called Vly, the peculiar sailing vessels on which are called flibotes, The word filibostero of filibustier was coined from the appellation, and became the designation of the adventurers under Lopez, who invaded Cuba in 1851. The soldiers of Kinney and Walker in Central America were also thus entitled; and filibuster became naturalized in colloquial and reporter’s English, first as a noun and then as a verb. It is slang, however. Filibustering is a cant term much used of late years in the legislative assemblies of the United States to designate the employment of parliamentary tactics to defeat a measure by raising frivolous questions of order, calls of the house, motions to adjourn, etc., in order to weary out the opposite party, or to gain time.
Among the Law-Makers
By Edmund Alton
New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons
These dialtory tactics are known in the technical language (or rather “slang") of parliamentary procedure as “filibustering.”
When the “filibusters,” or, as they are styled by their more dignified antagonists, “obstructionists,” think proper to adopt this line of action, resort is had to various artifices.
Americanisms--old & new
London, Priv. print. by T. Poulter & sons
FILIBUSTER, TO.—To obstruct legislative action by delivering long purposeless speeches, calling for divisions, and the like, in order to gain time. The original is the Spanish word filiboti, a pirate, and the parliamentary meaning implies a disposition to override regular rules. Filibustering is usually practised by the minority in order to tire out the majority.
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Wednesday, January 05, 2011 • Permalink