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Talking the Talk

In Brief

December 15, 2010, 1:00 am

On Dec. 10, Bernie Sanders, the 69-year-old independent US senator from Vermont, railed against the bipartisan compromise on George W Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits—for more than eight hours.

Filibusters, whether in the form of a Sanders-style allocution or merely a partisan threat, have become commonplace in the US Senate. New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall wants to eliminate them.

Udall proposes revising the rules to bar secret holds—which basically are anonymous filibuster threats—in order to hold senators accountable.

Udall, however, is not critical of Sanders’ speech.

“Sen. Udall thought Sen. Sanders’ efforts were very admirable,” Udall spokeswoman Marissa Padilla writes in an email. “Sen. Sanders did not hide behind a secret hold or resort to tactics of pure obstruction behind closed doors. He stood his ground and explained his opposition on the merits of the bill.”

On Dec. 13, Udall called for a vote on the tax/benefits compromise, adding, in a statement, that he has “continually fought against obstruction and needless delay in the Senate.”

All this filibuster talk prompted SFR to look at New Mexico’s own legislative bodies.

John Yaeger, the assistant director for legislative affairs at the New Mexico Legislative Council Service, says there’s no real way to historically measure filibusters in New Mexico’s legislature.

“You can have people stand up and speak for a long time, and they might deny that they’re filibustering; they might say they’re seeking information,” Yaeger says. 

Even so, New Mexico also has time limits—two hours for the Senate, three for the House—before legislators can move to end debate.


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