The idea behind Who Won the Week is to give you the opportunity to select who (or what) you think “won” this past week. Your selection can be anyone or anything — politicians, celebrities, athletes, authors, bloggers, your friends or family members, books, movies, TV shows, businesses, organizations, whatever.
I will be posting this prompt on Sunday mornings (my time). If you want to participate, write your own post designating who you think won the week and why you think they deserve your nod. Then link back to this post and tag you post with FWWTW.
This week’s Who Won the Week winner is Philip Uster. Who, you ask, is Philip Uster? Oh, he’s just a senator in the U.S. Congress who may be singlehandedly responsible for the death of democracy in America, is all.
Okay, that is not true. There is no Senator Philip Uster in Congress. He’s is a fictional creation. I’m actually writing about the filibuster, and when I decided to write a post about filibustering, I thought I was being quite clever in creating a persona named Philip Uster as a literary device for that infamous congressional procedure.
So what is a filibuster? The word originally derived from a Dutch term for pirate, robber, or “freebooter.” It was defined as someone who engaged in illegal activities for self-gain.
It has since evolved. According to Dictionary.com, a filibuster is “the use of obstructive tactics by a member of a legislative assembly to prevent the adoption of a measure generally favored or to force a decision against the will of the majority.”
It also used to be an exceptionally long speech, as one lasting for a day or days, or a series of such speeches to accomplish this purpose. But more on that later.
Philip Uster — I mean the filibuster — was born in 1806 when the Senate changed its rules, enabling a way to delay or block floor votes. The first actual filibuster in the Senate occurred in 1837. But it wasn’t until the 1930s when the filibuster really came of age.
Senator Huey Long of Louisiana used it against bills that he thought favored the rich over the poor. He would take up time — once up to 15 hours — by reciting Shakespeare and reading recipes. The record for the longest individual speech, however, belongs to South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond, who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Do you remember when I said earlier that the filibuster used to be an exceptionally long speech? Not any more. In the 1970s, the Senate introduced the concept of the “silent filibuster,” which enabled members to indicate that they merely intended to filibuster to block a measure. To bring this “non-filibuster” to an end in order to vote on the question, at least 60 senators must vote for cloture. So while the Senate likes to call itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” these days the minority party uses the filibuster as a blocking tactic for nearly any significant legislation that doesn’t address that party’s priorities.The Republican strategy in the Biden administration, like it was when Obama was president, is crystal clear: obstruct everything. The GOP battle cry has been to stop Biden from passing legislation at all costs. If Biden and the Democrats support it, they oppose it, even if “it” was something they previously supported or even proposed.
This past week the Republicans in the Senate were able to kill the effort to create a bipartisan commission to study what happened during the insurrection of the Capitol building — their place of employment — on January 6th because not even ten Republicans voted in favor.
In the Senate today no significant legislation can be introduced or votes taken without a super majority of 60 votes. Thanks to these arcane procedural rules on filibusters, it requires only 41 senators out of 100 to quash a bill.
So much for “majority rules.”
What about you? Who (or what) do you think won the week?