Now that almost all Republican Senators are hopping mad about alleged health-care reform and its passage and now that some Republican Senators are running for re-election, I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot about cloture in the Senate–if we want to hear about it, that is; we always have the option of tuning out.

I suspect any legislation President Obama even pretends to favor, including the ratification of what seems like a prudent, if modest, nuclear-weapons-reduction treaty with Russia, will encounter stubborn, stalling opposition in the U.S. Senate. Voting against cloture–or the closing of debate/discussion–is one senatorial stalling tactic.

Those unamused by France may be chagrined to know that “cloture” has some French etymological roots. (Not long after the invasion of Iraq, GOP-friendly comedian Dennis Miller, in response to France’s appearing not to cooperate fully with President Bush’s designs, declared that France was “dead” to him. I do not know if France has recovered fully from news of Miller’s declaration). The etymological information from the Oxford English Dictionary online appears below, and my favorite exampled cited is “The spirit which finds its expression in the Cloture is identical with that which animates the Caucus”–somehow that’s such a British sentence.

The French word for the action of closing, applied (among other things) to the closing of a debate in the French Assembly by will of a majority. Thence sometimes applied to the CLOSURE in the British House of Commons at its first proposal, and (by opponents) after its introduction in 1882.

1871 Edin. Rev. Jan. 74 Before the establishment of the cloture in the French Chamber. 1881 Spectator 22 Jan. 108 Might not an unscrupulous party chief..use the cloture to arrest necessary discussion. 1882 Standard 11 Nov. 5/1 The spirit which finds its expression in the Cloture is identical with that which animates the Caucus.

Hence cloture v. trans. and intr. (colloq.)
1886 Pall Mall G. 2 Sept. 7/1 To try his hand at cloturing upon the new Irish party. 1887 SHAW LEFEVRE in Ho. Comm. (Daily News 10 Mar. 3/3), The shutting out of all subsequent amendments to the one clotured. 1887 COL. NOLAN ibid. (Pall Mall G. 24 May 11/1), You are cloturing us in order to make a Whitsun holiday.


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