Definition of filibuster in US English:



  • 1An action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures.

    ‘it was defeated by a Senate filibuster in June’
    • ‘The current abuse of the filibuster requires a strong response, and we need positive action from the president.’
    • ‘The judicial filibuster is indeed an obstruction of last resort.’
    • ‘In an effort to further weaken the filibuster, the Senate in 1975 reduced the required number of votes from two-thirds to three-fifths.’
    • ‘The 1980s saw the filibuster threat used about 90 times, including in 1989 to block a capital-gains tax cut.’
    • ‘This guy claims not to have a view about whether Senate filibusters are constitutional.’
    • ‘Ideally, he'd be able to claim that the Democrats' filibusters are unprecedented.’
    • ‘The filibuster rule has of course been the subject of occasional but profoundly important alteration.’
    • ‘Senate Democrats have vowed to shut down the Senate if Republicans end judicial filibusters.’
    • ‘On presidential appointments - first, judges and now ambassador to the United Nations - they resort to the classic weapon of southern obstructionism: the filibuster.’
    • ‘Yes, it is true that a filibuster, which only requires 40 votes to sustain, is possible.’
    • ‘In addition, if the judicial filibuster were ended by a vote of the Senate, it would vanish entirely.’
    • ‘Such a ruling could be upheld by only 51 votes, rather than the 60 required to halt a filibuster.’
    • ‘In that event, breaking the filibuster would require 67 votes, a full 8 more than had been secured on Friday.’
    • ‘The procedural mechanism of the filibuster is designed for extraordinary circumstances.’
    • ‘Because the filibuster is a negative procedure, and one that frustrates the will of a simple majority, it has a bad reputation.’
    • ‘She got 65 votes, five more than she needed to actually break the filibuster.’
    • ‘Nor is the Republicans' Senate majority great enough to prevent the Democrats defeating a nominee by means of a procedural filibuster.’
    • ‘With a tie in the Senate, filibusters can go on indefinitely, and the vice president will become the swing vote on key bills.’
    • ‘However, 60 votes are required to end a filibuster.’
    • ‘Far too often, prolonged filibusters by those who disagree doom an idea that the vast majority supports.’
    delaying tactics, stonewalling, procrastination, obstruction, delaying, blocking, hold-up
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  • 2historical A person engaging in unauthorized warfare against a foreign country.


[no object]often as noun filibustering
  • 1Act in an obstructive manner in a legislature, especially by speaking at inordinate length.

    ‘a single obstinate senator could hold up legislation endlessly by filibustering’
    • ‘The president is basically banging on the Democrats and saying they were leading this filibuster of the Patriot Act, and it's true that mostly it was Democrats filibustering.’
    • ‘That's been a conservative argument since 2003, when the Republicans gained the majority and the Democrats began filibustering.’
    • ‘I also forgot to say that if I was filibustering, I might very well try to get my hands on the screenplay of the All-American Frank Capra political classic: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.’
    • ‘In this branch of Congress, such an approach allows filibustering to occur - when a bill is talked out of the time allocated to it.’
    • ‘You don't need editorializing, grandstanding, or filibustering to get meaningful answers.’
    • ‘The Democrats were filibustering, and the Republicans needed a 60-vote supermajority to end the filibuster and bring the proposal to the floor for a vote.’
    • ‘Democrats say that nothing has changed, that they will continue filibustering to block judicial nominees whose politics are out of their ‘mainstream.’’
    • ‘The Republicans were also filibustering against President Clinton's nominees, were they not?’
    • ‘If they go back to filibustering, the constitutional option's still on the table, and the trigger will be pulled.’
    • ‘In the legislative session that ended in June, a lawmaker filibustered and killed a measure that would have placed a cap on the law.’
    • ‘The bad news is that this will not occur until the Democrats control the Senate and the Republicans are the ones filibustering.’
    • ‘It was of course a ploy to slow things down and to ensure that as each plane lands on Ulsan they're hoping for more votes to arrive, so they're filibustering, slowing things down, delaying, wasting time.’
    • ‘Senate Republicans have been filibustering for the last three months to block consideration of a Democratic version of the homeland security legislation, which retained some union and civil service protection.’
    • ‘Have you been filibustering?’
    • ‘There are some very key bills to get to tonight, and I would hate to think the two main parties were filibustering in an attempt to avoid getting to them.’
    • ‘We were not the ones - we were not the ones filibustering, in other words.’
    • ‘Hatch returns to the 1995 status quo and the Democrats agree to stop filibustering.’
    1. 1.1with object Obstruct (a measure) by filibustering.
      • ‘Democrats are currently filibustering two of President Bush's hard right conservative judicial nominees.’
      • ‘First, if the Senate Democrats have the will to continue filibustering Bush's conservative nominees, a 15-year term limit is not likely to break that will.’
      • ‘Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is among lawmakers who have promised to filibuster legislation allowing drilling in the refuge.’
      • ‘‘I think this is another way of filibustering the impeachment process,’ he said, adding that the opposition will take the case to the streets should the process break down.’
      • ‘We had reached a point where the Democrats were filibustering judicial nominees relatively routinely.’
      • ‘Which is exactly what Paul Martin has been doing by canceling Opposition days and filibustering his own budget.’
      • ‘Senate Democrats filibustered his nomination to the appeals court, and he accepted a recess appointment by Bush.’
      • ‘But Ellis promised to filibuster the bill without his amendment.’
      • ‘Aside from filibustering the GOP's energy plan and blocking a handful of exceptionally reactionary judicial nominees, there are few success stories to which Democratic leaders can point.’
      • ‘Why do a few senators filibuster the nominee?’
      • ‘A handful of senators announced they would filibuster any energy legislation that opened up the area to drilling.’
      • ‘The Democrats likely would retaliate by filibustering all Republican bills.’
      • ‘And with regard to what Ed said about the bill on the floor, actually there's a bipartisan majority in favor of the Democratic position, and now the Republicans seem to be filibustering the bill.’
      • ‘And now there are senators who are filibustering The Patriot Act.’
      • ‘The Senate Democrats successfully filibustered the Federal medical malpractice awards act.’
      • ‘Not all of the judges being filibustered, for instance, are equally extreme in their views.’
      • ‘This parliamentary session had to go into overtime to get anything accomplished after months of filibustering their budget.’
      • ‘The National Party then started to filibuster the bill.’
      • ‘There is, of course, nothing unconstitutional about filibustering a judicial nomination.’
      waste time, stall, play for time, stonewall, procrastinate, buy time, employ delaying tactics
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Late 18th century: from French flibustier, first applied to pirates who pillaged the Spanish colonies in the West Indies. In the mid 19th century (via Spanish filibustero), the term denoted American adventurers who incited revolution in several Latin American states, whence filibuster (sense 2 of the noun). The verb was used to describe tactics intended to sabotage US congressional proceedings, whence filibuster (sense 1 of the noun).