Language and the Filibuster

While I’m on the subject of the creeping appropriation of terms to mean something new, I’d draw attention to an article by The Atlantic by James Fallows which includes a reader email protesting the description of the blockage of a bill in the Senate that commanded a majority vote as a “defeat” for the bill by the Senate.

Your hear this sort of the thing all the time now, as though the rules of the Senate had been changed to define “majority” as meaning the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture. It’s invidious.

Even if this has become a de facto reality, there is a lot to be said for insisting on more precise language, such as “Senate passage of bill blocked by filibuster,” or at a minimum “bill fails to get 60 votes necessary for passage.” If we allow minorities to become majorities by sheer assertion, then such words have little real meaning any more.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.