Setting the Record Straight

July 4, 2008

Senator Racist Bites the Dust

Shed No Tears For Senator No 

           We shed no tears here at the news Jesse Helms has died. We had no choice but to cover the antics of this born, raised and died racist throughout his 30 years in the Senate.

            For his personal legacy, you have to go abroad to The Guardian for the best obituary.

            But Helms also used and twisted the parliamentary system of the Senate not for the good of the country, but to win with his own narrow, mean, minority view of how the country should be run, to suit the view of him and his fellow racists.

            The Helms legacy lives on in the Senate today as the minority uses the system he helped bring about to block the current one-vote majority from getting anything done, then putting out press releases and talking on TV about how the Democrats don’t do anything.

            Helms didn’t invent use of the filibuster as an effective tool to block legislation you don’t like but don’t have enough support to defeat by voting. But his twisted use of it led to the situation we have today.

            You’ve heard about that three-fifths vote (60) the Senate needs to take up any piece of controversial legislation.

            That replaced the filibuster in which a senator is recognized to speak and refuses to yield the floor, as is his right. But to keep the floor, as you’ve no doubt seen in many old films, the senator must keep talking and not sit down, or he can yield to a supporter for comment without yielding control of the floor.

            The filibuster was used to great effect by Helms’s predecessors, the racists senators who fought against the Civil Rights Act and similar groundbreaking and long-overdue legislation in the 1960s.

            The only way the Senate can shut off the filibuster is, after a set number of days, to file a cloture petition and after a certain amount of time, take a vote, with three-fifths of the full Senate needed to stop the filibuster.

            Helms used the filibuster so much to obstruct Senate proceedings, the mere mention he would stage one would lead the Senate majority leader to suspend the issue on the floor and turn to some other matter so the body could carry on with its business of governing.

            Thus, we no longer have filibusters, but the Senate must still have that three-fifths vote to override obstructionists and get on with the business at hand. And that is why a closely divided Senate such as the one we have now is unable to do much. Thanks a lot, Jesse.




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