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term used to designate obstructionist tactics in legislative assemblies. It has particular reference to the U.S. Senate, where the tradition of unlimited debate is very strong. It was not until 1917 that the Senate provided for cloture (i.e., the ending of the debate) by a vote of two thirds of the senators present; three fifths are now generally required. Yet, despite many attempts, cloture has been applied only rarely. The filibuster has been used by various blocs of senators for different purposes; for example, by conservatives resisting civil-rights legislation in the 1960s, and by liberals resisting cuts in the capital gains tax in 1991. At times the threat of a filibuster has been sufficient to prevent a bill from being debated and voted on. Bills favored by President ObamaObama, Barack
(Barack Hussein Obama 2d), , 1961–, 44th president of the United States (2009–17), b. Honolulu, grad. Columbia (B.A. 1983), Harvard Law School (J.D. 1991).
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 have been filibustered more often than those of any other president. The threat of a filibuster has also been used to prevent a vote on presidential nominees to executive and judicial posts, and in 2013 the Senate rules for those nominees were changed so that only a majority vote was required to end debate.

In the 17th cent. the word was applied to buccaneers who plundered the Spanish colonies in the New World. In the 19th cent. the term was used more in reference to adventurers who organized and led, under private initiative, armed expeditions into countries with which the country from which they set out was at peace. Complications between the governments involved were likely to result. There was a series of filibustering expeditions from the United States against Cuba, Mexico, and Central and South American countries in the 19th cent., some of them led by citizens of the United States, as those of John A. QuitmanQuitman, John Anthony,
1798–1858, American general and politician, b. Rhinebeck, N.Y. He settled in Natchez, Miss., where he practiced law and held a series of political offices, serving in the state legislature and as acting governor (1835–36).
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 and William WalkerWalker, William,
1824–60, American filibuster in Nicaragua, b. Nashville, Tenn. Walker, a qualified doctor, a lawyer, and a journalist by the time he was 24, sought a more adventurous career.
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, and some by rebellious citizens of the government they sought to overthrow, as those of Narciso LópezLópez, Narciso
, 1798?–1851, Spanish-American soldier, b. Venezuela. After serving in the Spanish army during the Venezuelan revolution against Spain, he left his native country for Cuba (1823).
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 against Cuba. Texas, when it was still part of Mexico, was the scene of many such filibustering activities.


For works on legislative filibusters, see F. L. Burdette, Filibustering in the Senate (1940, repr. 1965), S. A. Binder and S. S. Smith, Politics or Principle?: Filibustering in the United States Senate (1996), G. Koger, Filibustering (2010), and R. Arenberg and R. Dove, Defending the Filibuster (2012).

For works on earlier senses of filibuster, see J. J. Roche, By-Ways of War: The Story of the Filibusters (1901), H. G. Warren, The Sword Was Their Passport (1943), and J. A. Stout, The Liberators (1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


1. Politics the process or an instance of obstructing legislation by means of long speeches and other delaying tactics
2. History a buccaneer, freebooter, or irregular military adventurer, esp a revolutionary in a foreign country
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
First, the Senate should get rid of the two-track system that allows it to bypass a filibustered bill and reinstitute the pre-1970 requirement that filibusterers hold the floor.
Again, a second point of order is not subject to debate, and thus cannot be filibustered. (52) Accordingly, once the second point of order is passed, then a vote on the first point of order immediately occurs (or occurs after a specified time), which itself only requires a simple majority of those senators present to vote in its favor to pass.
In order to avoid the need for a two-thirds vote under Rule XXII, most of the changes were adopted as Standing Orders, which were subject to the sixty-vote requirement for cloture if filibustered. Some of the reformers asserted that a simple majority had the right to adopt new rules at the beginning of a new Congress, and their opponents did not argue that such a course would be unconstitutional; the arguments centered on the value of the filibuster and the need to protect it on the merits.
In return, the seven Democrats agreed that judicial nominees "should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist." With 44 Democrats and 1 Independent (a Senator who often votes with the Democrats), this provision of the memorandum sidetracks the minority party's ability to sustain a filibuster.
if any member of this group thinks the judge is filibustered under circumstances that are not extraordinary, that member has the right to vote at any time for the constitutional option.' Everyone in the room understood that."
The Senate formally curbed the practice of endless debate in 1917, after eleven senators had successfully filibustered President Woodrow Wilson's proposal to arm American merchantmen against German submarine attacks.
Is "4473-4" a record to be proud of--one in which "only" four civil rights bills were filibustered? During Lyndon Johnson's White House tenure, nearly 2,000 bills were enacted.
Wendy Davis filibustered her way into political stardom, the Democrats in the U.S.
"Imagine what would they say to the families of the victims of Newtown about why a certain measure never came to a vote because they filibustered it or used other procedural measures to block it.A That would certainly be inappropriate."
By contrast, an average of one bill was filibustered in each session of Congress during the 1950s.
On April 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee by party-line votes approved two of the previously filibustered nominees, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown.
The Republicans are also crying "politics of personal destruction." But they forget that the modern judicial wars began when Republicans successfully filibustered against LBJ's nomination of Abe Fortas for Chief Justice in 1968, and when Representative Gerald Ford launched an effort to impeach Justice William O.