Mobilizing with Pots and Pans to Reverse a Bloodless Coup

We are experiencing the consequences of a bloodless coup. Forty one persons (41) are currently thwarting the demands of 69 million voters. The veto power of these 41 persons over our constitutional law making process is maintained and defended by 50 Democratic Senators and by Democratic Vice President Joseph Biden. Our new overwhelmingly elected Democratic President Barack Obama neither mentions nor challenges this maintenance of the bloodless coup. The secret stalwart defense of this coup is the dirty little secret of the national Democratic Party.

Do you want “change” from the status quo, as I do? Do you want regulation of Wall Street? Reform of the private banking system? The Employee Free Choice Act? Election reform? Single Payer Health Coverage? The public financing of election campaigns? Making contributions of large sums of campaign money a felony? Prosecution of torturers all the way to the top? Save the environment? If we want any one of these proposals, we must mobilize with many other voters to defeat the Senate Filibuster.

The Filibuster is a Senate practice, embodied in the Senate’s “Robert’s Rules of Procedure,” as Senate Rule XXI that effectively thwarts our self governing democracy of, by and for the people. It enables a very small number of Senators to defend the status quo, to prevent change, and to prevent enactment of bills or appointment of judges and officials that are demanded by a majority of us voters, a majority of the Members of the House of Representatives, a majority of the Senators, and by a popular President elected by a majority of voters. Filibustering originally meant unlimited talking or debate to delay or preclude a vote on the merits. Under modern usage, no Senator speaks endlessly. A single Senator privately and secretly informs his Party leader that he objects to the proposal. The Party leader honors his wish, and requires all members of the Party to vote against ending debate. Then no vote on the merits can be had until a supermajority of 60 Senators vote to permit a vote. From 1919 to 1970, the filibuster was actually used about 2 times per Congressional Session. During the Civil Rights Era after 1970 it was used much more often. Since the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, the filibuster has been used by the Republicans as a partisan weapon to thwart the majority. During Bill Clinton’s first two years, there were 20 attempts to close off “debate,” and the necessary 60 Senators could be mustered only 4 times. The pledge of the disciplined Republican Senators to stop President Clinton’s Stimulus Package was adhered to and the President’s Stimulus Proposal was defeated on 4 separate occasions as the Democrats tried to raise the necessary 60 votes. This does not even count the many Presidential proposals that were not even considered or brought up for a vote because of the threat of the filibuster.

The filibuster thus stands as a permanent and formidable weapon by Republicans, by Blue Dog Democrats, by powerful moneyed interests, by HMOs, by Wall Street, by war industries, and by ideologues to defend the status quo and to prevent both reform and “change.” It is now being used against Obama’s proposals, and it can and will be used against our demands. The mere existence of the filibuster and the threat of its use inhibit consideration of effective measures that really solve problems. In 1993 when someone pressed Hillary to consider Single Payer, she said: “Get real.” What she meant was that both the money of the insurance lobby and the filibuster made consideration of Single Payer impossible. It still is for the same reasons.

Our founding fathers were wealthy property and slave owners. They were very afraid of government by a “mob,” of rule by a temporary majority of voters. The Whiskey Rebellion had recently occurred. They created a Senate where Senators are elected for 6 year terms for the very purpose of slowing and impeding popular will. They created a law making process that even without the filibuster, contained 3 difficult hurdles: In order to pass a new law, a majority of voters must elect a majority of Members of the House, and elect a majority of Senators. Voters must in addition elect a President who will not exercise his veto over our majority will. These are obviously very difficult hurdles. We the sovereign people have to organize and maintain a disciplined sustained effort for at least 6 years in order to implement our will under the constitutional pattern.

The Founding Fathers clearly intended to require only the votes of a simple majority of Senators as in order to make a law:

   1. The Founding Fathers expressly provided regarding both the House and the Senate that “a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business.” In the case of the Senate, that means that 51 Senators can show up to enact a law. It may mean that a simple majority of that 51 Senators or an affirmative vote of 26 Senators shall be sufficient. At most it means that only the unanimous vote of the full quorum or 51 Senators is required. In the case of a 50-50 tie 50 votes plus the vote of the Vice President is sufficient. It does not mean that the affirmative vote of 60 Senators is required.

   2. The constitution provides for 6 other special instances where a 2/3 vote is required.

   a. To override a Presidential veto
   b. To ratify a treaty
   c. To expel a member
   d. To impeach
   e. To propose amendments to the Constitution
   f. To adjourn the Congress over the objection of the President

   3. Thomas Jefferson presided over the first Senate and wrote the first procedural rules for both the House and the Senate.1) These rules provided that debate could be ended so that a vote could be had on a Bill by a non-debatable motion for the previous question which could be passed by vote of a simple majority of the quorum. The House has continued with this procedure to this day. The Senate operated with this procedure from 1789 to 1806, when this constitutional rule was abolished.2 The bloodless coup started then.

   4. Consider the effect on our law making power if the House of Representatives also adopted the filibuster. This would obviously be unconstitutional if the House did it because few if any laws could be enacted. The House and Senate are governed by the same provisions in the Constitution. So it is unconstitutional for the Senate as well.

   5. The Supreme Court in U.S. vs. Ballin3 in 1892 impatiently confirmed what the common understanding had been for hundreds of years:

“…the act of a majority of a quorum is the act of the body. This has been the rule for all time…”

So, the Senate filibuster is unconstitutional.

Although the Senate has a constitutional right to make its own rules of procedure, those procedures must implement, not obstruct the will of the voters. The great Chief Justice John Marshall ruled early on in 1819 in McCulloch vs. Maryland,4 (a case upholding a congressionally created US National Bank) that our constitution provided for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. President Lincoln embedded this concept in our minds by his Gettysburg Address. “We the People of the United States” are the sovereign 4th branch of government. We are the bosses. The Senators, the President and all elected officials are our agents. The constitution compels them to implement our will, not theirs. The filibuster empowers 41 Senators permanently to veto the constitutionally manifested majority voting power of 69 million voters. The filibuster is in fact a right wing bloodless coup by Senators, as effective as a bloody machine gun coup by a military dictator.

The filibuster has its roots in slavery. As a majority of voters began to object to slavery, Slave Owners in the South needed every parliamentary trick they could devise to protect their right to own and to profit from slavery. They got extra Members of the House of Representatives because each of the millions of the non-voting slaves was counted as 3/5 of a person for purposes of apportioning representatives in the House. Thus Southerners had the votes to capture leadership roles in the Congress. In the Senate, the Southern slave owners needed a device to prevent votes against their interests. The filibuster was perfect for this. A Southern Senator had only to keep talking to prevent action on the merits that would free the slaves. Even after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, Southerners used the filibuster to prevent Congressional action to implement Black voting rights, to prevent enactment of a law against lynching and to prevent laws abolishing the poll tax.

Although Senate Rule XXII and the filibuster are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court, composed of Justices who are now inclined to oppose the concept that voters are sovereign, denies “standing” to a sovereign citizen, any group of sovereign citizens, to a Member of Congress, and to a Senator to challenge the filibuster in court. Nobody has standing. One might think that a sovereign citizen would be able to exercise his First Amendment right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances” by bringing a suit in court, but the Court has ruled that “right” means only the right to file the claim with the clerk and not the right to be actually heard or to get actual redress. The court has changed since 1819 when it affirmed the concept of the sovereignty of the people. Contrast the current rulings denying sovereignty with the court’s rulings giving a corporation the legal rights of an actual person, and giving that corporation the First Amendment Right of free speech to use its wealth to broadcast widely to overwhelm individual speakers. The Senate’s use of the filibuster has created a Supreme Court that supports the bloodless coup.

All of this leaves us with the only remedy available, and it is not easy. A simple majority of a quorum of Senators, plus the cooperative vote and ruling of Vice President Biden, can change the rule any time the Senators wish. This Senate precedent and procedure was established in 1975 by then Senator Mondale. Supposing the Democratic Senators really wished to enact banking reform or Single Payer: Somebody moves to cut off debate and bring the matter to a vote on the merits. The Vice President puts the matter to a vote. Somebody, probably a Republican or a Blue Dog Democrat or Senator Lieberman raises a point of order: “Point of Order Mr. Vice President. Senate Rule XXII requires 60 votes to close debate.” The VP rules that Senate Rule is unconstitutional and that the constitution compels a vote by a simple majority. Somebody then will challenge the ruling of the chair. This vote is not debatable and the ruling of the chair can be sustained by simple majority vote. . This is the basis of the threat by Republicans when they were recently in the majority to use the “nuclear option.”

The secret is that the Senators do not wish to change the rule. Not a single Democratic Senator and not a single Republican Senator wishes to change the rule.

In 1973, full of sovereign citizen outrage when the filibuster was being used against President Clinton’s Stimulus Package, I filed suit in the D.C. Federal Court5 against all 100 Senators raising the challenge that the supermajority requirement of Senate Rule XXII was unconstitutional. I claimed that I had a constitutional right to a fractional share of majority voting power, and to have that right implemented by a simple majority of my elected Senators and Representatives. I naively hoped and expected that President Clinton and some Democratic Senators like Senator Wellstone and Senator Leahy would seize the opportunity and join the suit on my side. I notified President Clinton of the opportunity. He never replied. He never joined the suit. Every single one of the 100 Senators authorized and directed the Senate Legal Counsel to oppose my suit because I lacked “standing.” So I had neither verbal support nor legal support from any Democratic elected official.

There are several reasons why the Senators unanimously support this unconstitutional rule:

   o It gives each Senator a way to conceal his votes for the wealthy Wall Street Banks and to continue to receive campaign contributions, while he claims to represent the “little guy.” For example, both President Clinton and President Obama and the Democratic Senators can say the filibuster make it impossible for the overwhelming voting majority of us to get the Single Payer Health coverage we voters need and want. Meanwhile the Senators can continue to take campaign funding from HMOs and other interests who profit from the status quo.
   o It gives each Senator vast power to stall and possibly to defeat a majority proposal that is opposed by some moneyed interest that finances the Senators re-election campaign.
   o It preserves the alleged collegial and cooperative relationship among Senators so that they can “scratch each other’s back” and trade votes on different Bills important to each Senator.
   o It preserves the hallowed “tradition of the Senate” as a wiser, calmer legislative body, “the most powerful legislative body in the world,” as Senator Robert Byrd proudly claims.6
   o It has now existed for 203 years.

These are not ordinary times. This is a time of extraordinary emergency. We voters are facing “a depression greater than the Great Depression, loss of jobs, homelessness, illness, and hunger, along with Global Warming, and the end of cheap Oil.

We face a covert class war by the Wall Street Banks who desperately seek to preserve their sources of vast wealth by making us taxpayers and our taxpaying offspring pay their bills.

We have a cancerous private banking system that is siphoning off our wealth for the benefit of the wealthiest 1%.

We desperately need to assert our sovereignty as majority voters, and to regain majority control of our law making process.

The only way we can possibly do this is to mobilize and lead millions of our fellow and sister voters and beat our pots and pans in front of every office of the Senators, Congress persons, and the White House demonstrating that we are aware of the Senators’ dirty little secret and demanding that they abolish the filibuster. The angry and outraged voters are ready to act. It is important that demonstration leaders, spokespersons to the media, sign makers, and those who speak directly to the elected official, be prepared to make a focused demand that the Senators abolish the filibuster.

  1. Page 395, Jefferson’s Parliamentary Writings, edited by Wilbur Samuel Howell, Princeton University Press (1988 []
  2. From 1806 to 1917, one filibustering Senator could and did thwart majority action. There was no way for the Senate to get to a vote on the merits. Under the looming emergency of WWI in 1917 a “reform” was adopted by the Senators so as to permit 2/3 of the Senators to cut off debate. In 1975 under the pressure of the civil rights movement, the Senators agreed to a further “reform” so as to enact the 3/5 rule that exists today. []
  3. U.S. v Ballin 144 U.S. 1 []
  4. McCulloch v. Maryland 4 Wheat 316 []
  5. Page v. Dole et al United States District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 93-1546; Page v. Richard Shelby et al Unites States District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 97-0068 []
  6. 1 Robert C. Byrd, The Senate 1789-1989 []
Doug Page is a retired lawyer for unions, a former Democratic politician, and a life long observer of government, unions and business. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Doug, or visit Doug's website.

13 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on April 4th, 2009 at 10:19am #

    pots and pans good idea.

  2. Don Hawkins said on April 4th, 2009 at 12:08pm #

    Pot’s and pan’s then let them know you can care a tune then pot’s and pan’s again. I have a feeling there will be more song’s on the way. New people. It’s in view

    Amber cascades all over today
    Then we walk on a crooked catwalk
    Only to be delayed
    Bubbles of blue burst into two
    Eaten up by the incoming tide
    Of the new

    Then we call to the man who walks on the water
    We talk of a plan to stop all the slaughter in view
    It’s in view

    Granite charades are played in the rain
    Till we fall through a sand castle window
    To avoid the pain
    Summer canoe paddles up to you
    ‘Cause it’s time for another beer run
    Or something that’s equally true

    Then we call to the man who walks on the water
    We talk of a plan to stop all the slaughter in view

    Then we call to the man who walks on the water
    We talk of a plan to stop all the slaughter in view
    It’s in view

  3. Patty said on April 4th, 2009 at 2:04pm #

    WELL DONE. I’m thinking about the largest pot in my kitchen and the largest spoon. I’m thinking at the very least of being in Los Angeles April 6. Thank you for your scholarship.

  4. greybeard said on April 4th, 2009 at 3:13pm #

    But first the American sheeple will have to wake up, object to being “shorn”, and pick up their pots and pans! We do not have a representative democracy, and never will, so long as Money interests can hide.

  5. Deadbeat said on April 4th, 2009 at 5:35pm #

    greybeard writes…

    But first the American sheeple will have to wake up, object to being “shorn”, and pick up their pots and pans! We do not have a representative democracy, and never will, so long as Money interests can hide.

    Polls show that the American people are fully aware that they are getting screwed. The problem is the LACK OF SOLIDARITY among the citizenry. Also notice that the ruling class is doing absolutely NOTHING to alleviate DEBT. Debt is the weapon that the working class has to overthrow.

    How are people for example go on a general strike when they have mortgages and consumer loans to pay off. Most American cannot afford to miss a paycheck. Therefore most American are behaving “rationally” to their debt bondage and other kinds of monetary bondage that suppresses their militancy. Via the courts debt bondage ATOMIZES American.

    What is needed is solidarity and the pooling of resources that can come to the aid of American that decide to default on their debt. Such defiance will force changes and would be an excellent response to the programs that are structured to rescue the private banks.

    People should be demanding total DEBT forgiveness and a restructuring of the economy to serve the people.

    Power to the people.

  6. Don Hawkins said on April 5th, 2009 at 5:32am #

    Oh there is a restructuring of the economy going on all right and not exactly to serve the people all the people but again just a few people. It’s not going to work a little fly in the ointment called climate change. There’s debt alright and this time we have a little debt to the Earth better known as the home planet. I have to admit it is driving many people crazy to know this and that is why we see what we see. It seems to be playing out in strange way’s all we have to do is turn on the TV and watch many act like little kid’s and I guess tell themselves everything is just fine and of course tell us the same thing. What’s the main reason for this well I guess consumer confidence that’s a wall street term. Now some really smart people that you don’t see on TV say it is probably a very good idea to produce energy 100% of our energy from clean energy and do that within 10 years or things for human’s will get very bad. The President we have now here in the States has a plan and not even close to the plan of the real smart people that you never see on TV. Consumer confidence. I wonder why the people on TV, TV is a business, the ones who talk like little kid’s never put on the real smart people. There must be a reason for this and the answer escapes me at this moment. Now I watched this morning MSNBC and FOX and CNN and they are talking about the missile that North Korea just plunked into the ocean. Our President just talked and is going to mobilize the powers that be on planet Earth to fight this threat that all of humanity faces. There seems to be a lot of mobilization these day’s. G-20 and that whole restructuring of the economy just happened. Hay were those people at the G-20 the real smart people they seemed smart and were dressed nice must be. Remember people we have pot’s and spoon’s and the truth on our side. The other side have a lie that is made to seem like the truth. Remember the other side now day’s are a bit crazy I see it everyday on TV keep an eye on them they are not doing well. The pot and spoon could just help them to focus and get there mind off there troubles.

  7. Don Hawkins said on April 5th, 2009 at 7:31am #

    I just walked the dog and it helps me think. Maybe the reason many of the people you see on TV or read on the Internet are kind of slaves to the system. Never mind that the system not all of it but a good part will take us all into the darkside in just a few years never mind that for a few. Some few have drivers to get them from place to place and without the system they would have to walk or drive themselves and work on there own car. Changing brakes is easy now a water pump on the new stuff is hard it’s that whole lining up the dots that people find hard. A few have cooks not only to cook but shop for them again how could they ever cook for themselves or shop let alone shop at Wal Mart I can’t go on. Oh yes you can. Can you imagine having to take a commercial flight instead of your own jet I can’t go on. It looks like these trillions for the financial system is so they can keep doing all those things and never mind about going into the darkside in just a few years no never mind that. Listen to your leaders and watch your parking meters. The strange part is that these few know full well the problems we face but think it better they go out in style and let the next generation go into the darkside. That’s not very nice. It looks like it is making them crazy in many way’s kind of troubled minds in many way’s but they do it anyway it’s that whole slaves to the system. Just watch TV and tell me you don’t see troubled minds and many of those troubled minds are telling people the masses they have troubled minds and if you do what we say you will be alright. I am confused now. A pot and a spoon calm at peace loud and clear lose the jet the driver the cook do your own shopping remember how to do real work? Class warfare yes it sure is. The push is on people from those few to not do what is needed and so far they are not winning but stopping any real progress. Remember the other side now day’s are a bit crazy I see it everyday on TV keep an eye on them they are not doing well. The pot and spoon could just help them to focus and get there mind off there troubles and just maybe my son and his can have a fighting chance.

  8. bozh said on April 5th, 2009 at 9:36am #

    as an aside, wife and i create more problems than we can solve [just like US]; nevertheless, we solve lotsof them. but we do often make mountains out of molehills and molehills out of mountains.
    just like world plutos- the modern feudal lords, barons, counts, earls, boyars, contessas, dames- who made afgh’n look like a mountain instead a molehill; while making mollhill out of global warming/warfare.
    as editors tell me in a ‘dignified’ way for a dignitary: that’s democracy, mister! so it may be OK to fry in the sun democratically. tnx

  9. Don Hawkins said on April 5th, 2009 at 11:56am #

    I know Bozh I know

  10. Don Hawkins said on April 5th, 2009 at 2:56pm #

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – One Antarctic ice shelf has quickly vanished, another is disappearing and glaciers are melting faster than anyone thought due to climate change, U.S. and British government researchers reported on Friday.
    They said the Wordie Ice Shelf, which had been disintegrating since the 1960s, is gone and the northern part of the Larsen Ice Shelf no longer exists. More than 3,200 square miles (8,300 square km) have broken off from the Larsen shelf since 1986.
    Climate change is to blame, according to the report from the U.S. Geological Survey and the British Antarctic Survey, available at
    “The rapid retreat of glaciers there demonstrates once again the profound effects our planet is already experiencing — more rapidly than previously known — as a consequence of climate change,” U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.
    “This continued and often significant glacier retreat is a wakeup call that change is happening … and we need to be prepared,” USGS glaciologist Jane Ferrigno, who led the Antarctica study, said in a statement.
    April 3, 2009

    We need to be prepared. Pot’s and spoons still time to slow the real fun stuff. No more lies we want the truth and we need to try. Cap and trade will not work the truth will. Do you really think the truth will not come out not this time.

  11. Don Hawkins said on April 6th, 2009 at 3:53am #

    Come senators, congressmen, please head the call
    Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall
    For he that gets hurt will be her that has stalled
    The battle outside ragging will soon shake your windows
    And rattle your hall
    For the times, they are a changing

    Come mothers and fathers all over this land
    And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
    Your sons and your daughter are beyond your command
    Your old role is rapidly aging
    Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand
    For the times they are a changing Dylan

    Dylan wrote this a few years ago and seems to work even better in the twenty first. So for the people who are still in that old way of thinking your role is rapidly aging that would be rapidly changing. Don’t criticize what you can’t understand as it will only take you into the darkside not a fun place. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand and lending a hand is not the lies that have worked for you so well have you looked around lately but the truth for the times they are a changing.

    The line, it is drawn, the curse, it is cast
    The slow one will later be fast
    And the present now will soon be the past
    The order is rapidly fading
    The first one now will later be last
    For the times, they are a changing

    Ok people let’s watch our senators, congressmen we can see them and of course pay no attention to the man behind the curtain people with Alligator shoes and cash. Yes let’s watch them play the game where nobody wins making plans for nobody. Cap and trade senators, congressmen by all means and nobody wins plans for nobody and remember the present now will soon be the past. Do it for the Gipper, what how about future generations? See that question mark well good people that is what the future generations see so far as they are a lot smarter than you think. Remember the present now will soon be the past and the darkside is not a fun place. Do it for the Gipper or Fox News where we see are highly intelligent leaders on the Glenn Beck show as he cries for humanity. Pot’s and spoon’s loud and clear the truth no more lies for the times they are a changing.

  12. Don Hawkins said on April 6th, 2009 at 4:43am #

    A lie can run around the world before the truth can get it’s boots on.
    James Watt

    Put your boots on and keep them on it will put us a little ahead of the game. The next year the game of lies will be in full gear so to speak.

    In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. –George Orwell

    The Greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. –Stephen Hawking

    We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart.– Blaise Pascal

    It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where we are today, but we have just begun. Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today.
    Barack Obama When do you think we should get started we are kind of out of time? See that question mark that is what my kid’s see as they tell me just that kind of. When do you think we should get started. Many very smart people that you don’t see on the Glenn Beck show are wondering the same thing this is not rocket science. Cap and trade will not work keep it simple.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain said on April 6th, 2009 at 8:46pm #

    May I recommend ‘Indispensable Enemies’ by Walter Karp, a brilliant exposition of the history of Democratic and Republican complicity and collusion to serve the money power and keep the rabble in line. Capitalist democracy is the most completely self-contradicting expression in the English, or American, language.