Dana Milbank on the Republican embrace of the filibuster

Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Wednesday, November 18, 2009; 12:00 PM

Post columnist Dana Milbank discusses today's column, about how Republican senators have learned to love the filibuster.

Read the column: Republican senators do an about-face on judicial filibusters.


Dana Milbank:
Hello and welcome to this hour-long filibuster.


Chat filibuster: I don't like the philosophy of this chat so I am going to filibuster, lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala



Dana Milbank: My hands are on my ears so I cannot hear your lalalala. Also I am sticking my tongue out at you, or at least at my laptop screen. If I keep this up I may get elected to Congress. Except I live in the District so I can't get elected to Congress. Apparently I can't even get stopped in a traffic checkpoint anymore.


Whack-a-Dana: I see that The WP has instituted the Whack-a-Dana chat model. You pop up at random intervals and we have to take a whack at hitting the right day and time.

My favorite reader comment to the article, "A foolish consistency is like a waffle without convexities and concavities, also without butter and maple syrup." -- Ralph Weirdo Emerson.

Dana Milbank:
I am afraid of venturing into the comments for fear that I will never return, so thank you for bringing that to my attention. Please send any others that do not threaten violence or use profanities with asterisks instead of vowels to get around the obscenity filter.

The great Paul Williams, chat czar at washingtonpost.com, has argued that it might be better to float my chat and do them on days when the column seems to generate the most interest.


Arlington, Va.: Good column. You should save that one and just change the parties and names for the next time the majority shifts. From 2000-2006 Democrats were in love with filibustering and it was Republicans who threatened the nuclear option to eliminate the 60 vote requirement for confirmations. Both sides have nothing to be proud about when it comes to supporting or opposing the filibuster.

Dana Milbank: True, that.

The one thing that saves the Democrats in this instance is that they weren't threatening the nuclear option of abolishing the filibuster. I don't pretend that this was based on high-minded principle. In fact I'm sure it was because they knew they had enough votes to break the filibuster.

My filibuster, however, will not be broken.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


Columbus, OH: "The great Paul Williams, chat czar at washingtonpost.com, has argued that it might be better to float my chat and do them on days when the column seems to generate the most interest."

So maybe once or twice a year? (Sorry, you asked for it.)

Dana Milbank: Hardy har. Now, where was I?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.


Days of yore: What happened to the good old days where a filibuster really meant a filibuster? We should have Dr. No (Coburn) get up there and read a phone book for 24 hours -- and C-SPAN to do live coverage of it. Riveting TV entertainment compared to all the other junk that's out there already.

Dana Milbank: Exactly. That would be a great gift to the Sketch. The closest we came was a couple of years ago when Ron Wyden refused to relinquish the floor for the better part of a day. I think a filibuster should only end when the filibusterer needs to use the toilet.

Doing a virtual, online filibuster, I of course do not have to worry about calls of nature.

John, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, greeting.

Know that before God, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom, at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry archbishop of Dublin, William bishop of London, Peter bishop of Winchester, Jocelin bishop of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh bishop of Lincoln, Walter Bishop of Worcester, William bishop of Coventry, Benedict bishop of Rochester, Master Pandulf subdeacon and member of the papal household, Brother Aymeric master of the Knights of the Temple in England, William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, William earl of Salisbury, William earl of Warren, William earl of Arundel, Alan de Galloway constable of Scotland, Warin Fitz Gerald, Peter Fitz Herbert, Hubert de Burgh seneschal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew Fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip Daubeny, Robert de Roppeley, John Marshal, John Fitz Hugh, and other loyal subjects:

1. First, that we have granted to God, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church's elections - a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it - and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity.


Louisville, KY: During previous debates I remember discussion of a "nuclear option" - I don't remember what that was; can you enlighten me, and has it been discussed as a response from the Democratic side?

Dana Milbank: They may have thought it unwise to exercise the nuclear option while the president was in Japan.

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."


Reston, Va.: Speaking of comments sections, Dana, what is your opinion of the ordering of the comments on the wapo.com site? Specifically, comments on the blogs are listed in chronological order, with the first comment listed being the first comment posted. However, on articles and columns, the comments post in reverse order with the most recent comment posting at the top.

The inconsistency vexes me...

Dana Milbank:

My own preference is that favorable comments should be at the top, and unfavorable comments should be appended to somebody else's story.

All the same, I am very happy to have comments. I get a certain swagger when I have a lot of comments -- 329 today! -- as long as I do not read them.


Evanston, Ill.: Given your prominence in the sexist liberal media what is your take on Palin? Could she win the Republican nomination? How would the GOP establishment derail her?

Dana Milbank: This suggests that there is still a GOP "establishment" that is distinct from the tea-party crowd. I think that when even John Boehner and Michael Steele are radicalized, there is really no establishment left, unless you count poor Charlie Crist.

Now, back to my filibuster.

Couric: You've said, quote, "John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business." Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?

Palin: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie - that, that's paramount. That's more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us.

Couric: But he's been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.

Palin: He's also known as the maverick though, taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he's been talking about - the need to reform government.

Couric: But can you give me any other concrete examples? Because I know you've said Barack Obama is a lot of talk and no action. Can you give me any other examples in his 26 years of John McCain truly taking a stand on this?

Palin: I can give you examples of things that John McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.

Couric: I'm just going to ask you one more time - not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.

Palin: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.


Sterling, VA: Okay, the Magna Carta was easy; I want to hear you recite the entire Domesday Book.

Or Beowulf, in the original Old English.

Dana Milbank: Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum,
eodcyninga, rym gefrunon,
hu ða æ elingas ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing scea ena reatum,
monegum mæg um, meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas. Syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden, he æs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum ah,
oð æt him æghwylc ara ymbsittendra
ofer hronrade hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan. æt wæs god cyning!
Ðæm eafera wæs æfter cenned,
geong in geardum, one god sende
folce to frofre; fyrenðearfe ongeat
e hie ær drugon aldorlease
lange hwile. Him æs liffrea,
wuldres wealdend, woroldare forgeaf;
Beowulf wæs breme (blæd wide sprang),
Scyldes eafera Scedelandum in.


Jackson, MS: For your filibuster: don't forget recipes. Southern senators used to read off great recipes while they were trying to block civil rights acts.

Dana Milbank: 4 fresh mint sprigs
2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp water

Muddle mint leaves, powdered sugar, and water in a collins glass. Fill the glass with shaved or crushed ice and add bourbon. Top with more ice and garnish with a mint sprig. Serve with a straw.


Bathroom Issue: In Texas, filibusting senators have been known to use catheters so they could hold the floor, bathroom free. Is this a reasonable tactic for Senate Republicans?

Dana Milbank:
I am forwarding this question to my brother, who is a urologist in St. Paul, Minn.

In the spirit of your question, I resume my filibuster with this reading from the Journal of Urology:

Sacral Neuromodulation Versus Intravesical Botulinum A Toxin for Refractory Urge Incontinence
return to Article Outline

The treatment of urinary urge incontinence that fails to respond to antimuscarinics is a challenge. Sacral nerve modulation has been proven to reduce symptoms in a screened population of patients. Newer data suggest that botulinum A toxin may be as effective but the drug is costly and not approved the Food and Drug Administration. Siddiqui et al (page 2799) from Durham, North Carolina developed a Markov decision model using a societal perspective to compare costs and effectiveness. They calculated the quality of adjusted life years and incremental cost-effectiveness ratio, and found that sacral neuromodulation was more expensive and more effective than botulinum A toxin (neuromodulation cost-effective ratio $116,427 per quality of adjusted life years). During a 2-year period botulinum toxin A appeared to be more cost-effective than sacral nerve modulation based on currently published data in the literature for refractory urge incontinence. The authors warn that the long-term effectiveness of repeat injections remains unclear.


Bethesda: Love today's column. I do wonder why it is that pointing out such inconsistency and hypocrisy is mostly left to satirists these days -- basically you and Stewart/Colbert. But at least someone is doing it.

Dana Milbank: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.


Buster Phillip: Wait, you are filibustering your own chat? Careful, I heard that can cause blindness.

Dana Milbank:
That is an old wive's tale. I have excellent vision.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political gqnhewbn2hi8fh hq34 dnn4ft64re 64m 3i6h qwno6h45....


MISQUOTE!!!!: Palin: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.

What she actually said: I'll try to find ya some and I'll bring them to ya.

Dana Milbank:
This is a filibuster, not a colloquy. Reclaiming my time,

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals-and yet,to me, what is this quintessence of dust?


Leesburg, VA: Dana,

How touchy is the Abortion subject for journalists? Especially for you, who (according to my definition) fall into more of the humor/satire realm?

I was wondering because I read that Politico article last week about how the RNC Health Insurance Plan (i.e. the one they offer their employees) covers abortions. In light of the Stupak Amendment's recent passage, my first thought was "Sketch."

But, alas, no Sketch to be found. Is this because, in general, it's a touchy subject and difficult to make funny?

Dana Milbank: In order for me to do an abortion sketch it requires a supermajority vote of the editors and we fell just short.

Actually, the Sketch requires some visible action, so while the notion of Steele climbing down from the abortion coverage was funny, he did not do it in a public format.

In lieu of a Sketch, however, I offer this reading of the Roe v. Wade decision:

his Texas federal appeal and its Georgia companion, Doe v. Bolton, post, p. 179, present constitutional challenges to state criminal abortion legislation. The Texas statutes under attack here are typical of those that have been in effect in many States for approximately a century. The Georgia statutes, in contrast, have a modern cast and are a legislative product that, to an extent at least, obviously reflects the influences of recent attitudinal change, of advancing medical knowledge and techniques, and of new thinking about an old issue.

We forthwith acknowledge our awareness of the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy, of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires. One's philosophy, one's experiences, one's exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one's religious training, one's attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one's thinking and conclusions about abortion.

In addition, population growth, pollution, poverty, and racial overtones tend to complicate and not to simplify the problem.

Our task, of course, is to resolve the issue by constitutional measurement, free of emotion and of predilection. We seek earnestly to do this, and, because we do, we have inquired into, and in this opinion place some emphasis upon, medical and medical-legal history and what that history reveals about man's attitudes toward the abortion procedure over the centuries. We bear in mind, too, Mr. Justice Holmes' admonition in his now-vindicated dissent in Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 76 (1905):


Urology FIlibuster: Dana,

Did you actually read what you posted for your urology filibuster? It's a study that suggests that Botox has more uses than injecting into the faces of the "Real Housewives of Orange County." Apparently, it can also be used to prevent old people from peeing themselves!

Botox, is there anything it -can't- do?

Dana Milbank: I read neither the comments section nor the content of my urological journal postings. Thank you for the synopsis.


How do we know this is Dana Mibank?: And not a thousand monkeys typing on a thousand keyboards?

Dana Milbank: This question has been asked on a daily basis for five years.


May I join your filibuster, Senator?: 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought-
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Dana Milbank:
Thank you. I just stepped out to use the toilet while you read that. But now I am back.

A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, theyýd be happy for a while.

But february made me shiver
With every paper Iýd deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldnýt take one more step.

I canýt remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

So bye-bye, miss american pie.
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkiný whiskey and rye
Singiný, "thisýll be the day that I die.
"thisýll be the day that I die."

Did you write the book of love,
And do you have faith in God above,
If the Bible tells you so?
Do you believe in rock ýn roll,
Can music save your mortal soul,
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Well, I know that youýre in love with him
`cause I saw you danciný in the gym.
You both kicked off your shoes.
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues.

I was a lonely teenage bronciný buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck,
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died.

I started singiný,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkiný whiskey and rye
And singiný, "thisýll be the day that I die.
"thisýll be the day that I die."

Now for ten years weýve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rolliný stone,
But thatýs not how it used to be.
When the jester sang for the king and queen,
In a coat he borrowed from james dean
And a voice that came from you and me,

Oh, and while the king was looking down,
The jester stole his thorny crown.
The courtroom was adjourned;
No verdict was returned.
And while lennon read a book of marx,
The quartet practiced in the park,
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died.

We were singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkiný whiskey and rye
And singiný, "thisýll be the day that I die.
"thisýll be the day that I die."

Helter skelter in a summer swelter.
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter,
Eight miles high and falling fast.
It landed foul on the grass.
The players tried for a forward pass,
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast.

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While the sergeants played a marching tune.
We all got up to dance,
Oh, but we never got the chance!
`cause the players tried to take the field;
The marching band refused to yield.
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?

We started singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkiný whiskey and rye
And singiný, "thisýll be the day that I die.
"thisýll be the day that I die."

Oh, and there we were all in one place,
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again.
So come on: jack be nimble, jack be quick!
Jack flash sat on a candlestick
Cause fire is the devilýs only friend.

Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage.
No angel born in hell
Could break that satanýs spell.
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite,
I saw satan laughing with delight
The day the music died

He was singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkiný whiskey and rye
And singiný, "thisýll be the day that I die.
"thisýll be the day that I die."

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news,
But she just smiled and turned away.
I went down to the sacred store
Where Iýd heard the music years before,
But the man there said the music wouldnýt play.

And in the streets: the children screamed,
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.
But not a word was spoken;
The church bells all were broken.
And the three men I admire most:
The father, son, and the holy ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.

And they were singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkiný whiskey and rye
Singiný, "thisýll be the day that I die.
"thisýll be the day that I die."

They were singing,
"bye-bye, miss american pie."
Drove my chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkiný whiskey and rye
Singiný, "thisýll be the day that I die."


Washington, DC: You didn't recite Beowulf! The funny characters gave you away - you copied and pasted!

Dana Milbank:
I am offended! It took me a long time to figure out how to type those funny characters in. I have no choice but to insult you now.

Arthur: It is I, King Arthur, and these are my knights of the Round Table.
Whose castle is this?
S: This is the castle of my master, Guy de Lombard.
A: Go and tell your master that we have been charged by God with a sacred
quest. If he will give us food and shelter for the night, he can join us
in our quest for the Holy Grail.
S: Well, I'll ask 'im, but I don't think 'e'll be very keen-- 'e's already got
one, you see?
A: What?
Lancelot: He says they've already *got* one!
A: (confused) Are you *sure* he's got one?
S: Oh yes, it's ver' naahs.
(to the other soldiers:) I told 'em we've already *got* one!
(they snicker)
A: (taken a bit off balance) Well... ah, um... Can we come up and have a look?
S: Of course not! You are English types.
A: Well, what are you then?
S: (Indignant) Ah'm French! Why do you think I have this out-rrrageous
accent, you silly king?!
Galahad: What are you doing in *England*?
S: Mind your own business!
A: If you will not show us the Grail, we shall take your castle by force!
S: You don't frighten us, English pig-dogs! Go and boil your bottoms, son of a
silly person! Ah blow my nose at you, so-called "Arthur Keeeng"! You and
all your silly English Knnnnnnnn-ighuts!!!

(the soldier proceeds to bang on his helmet with his hands and stick out his
tongue at the knights, making strange noises.)

Galahad: What a strange person.
A: (getting mad) Now look here, my good ma--
S: Ah don' wanna talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food-trough
wiper! Ah fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster, and
your father smelt of elderberries!
Galahad: Is there someone else up there we can talk to?
S: No!! Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!


Filibusters and health care reform: Whatever sacral neuromodulation is, it sure looks like an expensive alternative to "holding it".

Dana Milbank:
Ah, that's it. I was determined to maintain this filibuster until one of you mentioned "sacral neuromodulation." The filibuster is broken. I am returning to work on tomorrow's column. Thank you for listening, and I yield the floor.


Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company