What is a filibuster?

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A filibuster is a delay tactic used by a United States senator to block a bill, amendment or other measure being considered by preventing it from coming up for a final vote.

Filibusters can happen only in the Senate (in the US) and not the House of Representatives. This is due to the Senate having very few limitations on senators’ rights and opportunities in the legislative process.

A filibustering senator may introduce time-consuming procedural motions, endlessly debate an issue, or essentially do anything else to delay or prevent further action on the Senate floor from taking place. Senators have done everything from reading Shakespeare, Dr. Seuss, and the Constitution to delay action.

The Senate can end a filibuster if it invokes cloture. Cloture is a vote by 60 members of the Senate to place a 30-hour time limit on consideration of the current bill, amendment, etc.

The word filibuster comes from the Spanish word filibustero. Filibuster came to the Spanish language from the Dutch word vrijbuiter, which is a pirate or robber. Also, In the 1850s, the Spanish word filibustero was used to refer to American mercenaries that traveled to Central America and the Spanish West Indies stirring up rebellions.

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