I was on Facebook the other evening when a video caught my eye. It was telling the story of the Democratic filibuster on gun control that happened last year. I dug a little deeper to find out that the filibuster (a tactic used in the U.S. Senate to block or delay action on a bill) lasted an astounding 15 hours led by Connecticut Senator Christopher Murphy and 39 other Senators. It amazed me that politicians would go to such lengths to stop a bill or pass one.
I read another story about the Texas Senator Wendy Davis. She filibustered for 13 hours to stop Texas's anti-abortion bill from being passed. She was on her feet the entire time. She was not allowed to use the bathroom. This is a rule for all filibusters. Instead, Ms. Davis used a urinary catheter on the Senate floor. Another rule for filibusters: you can't eat anything except hard candy, water and milk. Ridiculous? I know. I was thinking the same thing.
I went on to read 10 other filibuster stories involving politicians on both sides of the political spectrum. Whatever they believed in, they all had to follow the same absurd rules. No bathroom breaks unless another senator "allows" you to go, because he or she has yielded the floor to make a note. No eating except candy (because that apparently keeps stamina up). And no sitting.
Whoever came up with the rules for filibustering obviously took the phrase, "Stand up for what you believe in," too literally. The idea of filibustering makes sense — you get a hold of the floor for as long as you'd like to talk your colleagues into siding with you. But the fact that you get a hold of the floor until you pass out from fatigue or a cloture happens is inhumane.
Instead, there should be other rules in place. For example, for every five hours of your filibuster, you get a five minute washroom break. The rule of eating nothing but candy and milk is also useless. A person has to have all of their strength if they're trying to put up a fight for what they believe in. They need real food, like a sandwich. Plus, while standing gives you authority and power over the audience, standing for hours on end can cause fatigue. Government should not be a fight for who can physically stand the longest. It should be about reaching an agreement like sane, logical human beings.
Sure, rules should be implemented, like you have to talk while you have a snack, but the Senate shouldn't just outright ban food on the floor. Senate should give a two minute sitting break every couple of hours. Senate already has the power to close a filibuster with a cloture, so at least give the filibustering Senator a real chance to convince others of their side. If they're sweating, starving and really have to go to the bathroom, what chance do they have to make a convincing argument?
Don't get me wrong. Senators have succeeded in their filibusters in the past. Wendy Davis did. That doesn't mean the rules of filibustering should be brutal. The point of the filibuster is to really get the attention of Senators to prove that the filibustering Senator really believes in what they're trying to pass or inhibit. While the rules should be strict in order to maintain the fact that filibusters are difficult and should be used as last resorts, they should not be detrimental to the Senator's health.