Monday, March 07, 2005

19th Century Nuclear Options

History lovers will relish the demise of the filibuster in the House of Representatives as recounted by John Barnes at National Review Online.

The primary weapon of the minority was the so-called "silent quorum" or "silent filibuster." Under the House rules of the time, a quorum of 165 members, a majority, had to be present in order for business to be conducted. But in order for a member to be counted as "present," he had to affirmatively answer when his name was called by the clerk. If the member refused to answer, even if physically present in the chamber, he was marked absent. Since, invariably, some members actually were absent — either ill, traveling, or otherwise unavailable — it usually wasn't difficult for a minority, by remaining silent during the roll call, to prevent the majority party from reaching the necessary 165 members "present." Thus, the will of the majority was thwarted without an actual vote having to be taken. (Sound familiar?)

Read the article to learn how the House filibuster was broken.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington will seem quite tame.

Memo to Majority Leader Frist. . . .