Should we end the filibuster rule

After years of bitter controversy, the US Senate has changed regulations on persistent speech, the so-called filibuster regulation - and robbed the Republicans of the possibility of a further blockade policy on personnel issues. In future, a simple majority will be sufficient for most nominations to end debates or long-term speeches and to force a vote - previously 60 of the 100 senators had to approve.

But the change is likely to further poison the political climate in Washington. "Enough is enough," said President Barack Obama. "Today's pattern of blockade is no longer normal." He added, "The government's gears have to work." Republicans reacted indignantly. "You are likely to regret that much sooner than you think," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. On the other hand, his democratic opponent Harry Reid said: "The American people are fed up with the blockade."

The action of the Democrats is a taboo break. Commentators in Washington spoke of a historic step and the most important change in parliamentary rules in many decades. The New York Times spoke of a "milestone" that Washington Post of a dramatic change in the political landscape, CNN of a "historic moment".

A curiosity that is unique in the world in its expression

Although the filibuster appears to be a curious peculiarity of the US political system, it is actually considered inviolable as an instrument of power for the minority. The regulation is based on the unlimited right to speak to which representatives of the people in the Senate are entitled. Senators have repeatedly used this right throughout history to torpedo unpleasant laws or to prevent nominations. For the parliamentary guerrilla tactics, the term filibuster has become established, which is derived from a French word for privateer - flibustier - derives. Since the procedural rules were changed a few years ago, the mere threat of a marathon speech is enough to paralyze the legislative process. In order to break the blockade, 60 of the hundred senators traditionally had to vote for an end to the filibuster.

President Obama has been very angry several times in the past weeks and months because Republicans had blocked many nominations for high government posts for months. 52 senators voted for the change, 48 against. However, this does not mean a general end to filibustering. It was only about the rules for personal nominations of the President, which the Senate has to approve. In addition, the particularly important nominations for the Supreme Court are excluded. The passing of laws can also be delayed or even prevented in the future through persistent speeches.

Just a few months ago, Republican Senator Ted Cruz made the headlines with a 21-hour speech marathon against Obama's health care reform - reading from children's books, among other things. A few weeks earlier, a Democrat wanted to prevent the abortion law from being tightened - with an eleven-hour speech. In 1977 a Democratic senator even managed 43 hours at the lectern.

In hardly any other country is the obstructionist of persistent speech as important as in the Senate in Washington. In Berlin, for example, there are fixed speaking times. If you exceed this, you risk having the microphone switched off. Originally, the regulation was intended as a kind of minority protection against overpowering presidential and party power - now it is used by the fundamental opposition.

© Süddeutsche.de / dpa / AFP / schä