Monday, February 22, 2010

1st topic of 2nd semester--the Filibuster!

Welcome to the AP Government blogosphere! Since we're covering many of the chapters in a different order than your 1st semester colleagues did, the subject matter of our blog postings will most likely go in a different order, as well. Since we're starting this week on the legislative branch, I thought an appropriate and timely topic would be the U.S. Senate's unique tradition of the filibuster. Please click on the title link above, and read a little Wikipedia background on where the term 'filibuster' comes from and how exactly it works in today's Senate (you can skip over most of the stuff about Ancient Rome, the U.K., Australia, Canada, etc.).

Once you've read that explanation, please click on the following 2 links and read both of these articles, as well. The first talks about why the filibuster is an outdated tradition that should be abolished, and the second gives a vehement defense of the filibuster, stressing its importance and that it should be maintained. (this was written before the Massachusetts special election, when Democrats still held 60 seats in the Senate)

After reading these different articles and explanations, here are some questions for you to consider:
  • What do you think of the filibuster? Do you like the idea of potentially needing 60 votes out of 100 to be able to pass legislation? Is it protecting the minority so that one side doesn't force too much of their agenda down the throats of the American people, or does it make it too difficult for a side that has won an elected majority to enact ANY of its agenda?
  • What are some of the most effective arguments given both in favor of and against the filibuster?
  • Look at the graph on the Wikipedia page, showing the number of cloture votes in the past 60 years or so (cloture is when Senators vote to cut off debate on a topic; they're basically voting on whether or not to vote, and 60 'yea' votes are needed to move on to a final 'up-or-down' vote on a bill, a nomination, etc.). What trends do you notice on this graph? What do you think might account for those trends?

Remember, each of you need to make at least TWO (2) separate posts to the blog about this topic. There is no length or 'minimum # of words' requirement, but use your best judgement about how long your comments should be in order to effectively make your point and contribute to the discussion. One of your comments should be a response to any or all of the questions posed above, and your other comment should be a response to something one of your classmates has said. Both of your comments need to be posted by the end of the day next Friday, March 5. Have fun, and good luck!