Ms. Davis Comes to Austin

Wendy Davis shows the U.S. Senate how the filibuster should really work.

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(Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis conducted a 11-hour-long filibuster of the state's anti-abortion bill Tuesday night.

Jimmy Stewart could have taken lessons from Wendy Davis in the Texas State Senate. Or maybe she watched "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" before her marathon, successful filibuster.

Aside from the most important message for many of us – that draconian, turn-the-clock-back laws on a woman's right to choose won't be tolerated – there is another lesson. A lesson that many in Washington should learn about the filibuster.

If you are going to do it, you should be Wendy Davis or Jimmy Stewart. No more wimpy filibusters, or threats of filibusters, which is what we have in the current U.S. Senate. 

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

The notion that the press and public have accepted that 60 votes are necessary to move nearly every piece of legislation of any controversy is a democratic (small "d") disaster. The use of super majorities to pass legislation creates a serious problem and handcuffs legislative bodies. OK, two-thirds to approve a treaty in the Senate or impeach a president or amend the constitution, but really, 60 votes to move legislation of any consequence?

If U.S. Senators care enough about a bill to truly filibuster it, they should filibuster it  – like Wendy Davis – not rely on the wimp filibuster, as they do now. 

The scary part of all this is that our country has accepted that 60 votes is standard operating procedure, that this is the regular and right way to legislate, that there is no alternative; suck it up and get used to it!

A number of senators understand the peril of this policy and are trying to fix it.  Maybe that is the other lesson from Wendy Davis.

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