Senate Republicans' 'Hostage Taking' on Tax Cuts Not Unprecedented





The entire 42-member Senate Republican caucus' decision to filibuster all legislation until an extension of the Bush tax cuts is passed is unusual, but it is not entirely unprecedented. Typically the filibuster, wherein a block of 41 or more senators vote against ending debate and moving to a vote on legislation, is used to stop bills that the minority finds especially dangerous. Historically it was employed infrequently, but its use has proliferated in the last few years. With Republicans now routinely filibustering any legislation they find objectionable, it has become common to think of the Senate as actually having a supermajority requirement to pass legislation (it does not)....

Sarah Binder, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, says blanket holds are essentially what Senate Republicans are currently doing. “This strategy is not new,” Binder says. “We often refer to it as 'hostage taking.' That is, senators block a full range of bills to force action on one bill they favor.” In the past, Democrats have also used the maneuver: in 1934 Sen. Huey Long (D-La.) blocked bills until he was able to obtain a vote on farm-bankruptcy legislation. More recently Senate Democrats blocked bills in 1996 to force a vote on raising the minimum wage....


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