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The Stackhouse Filibuster

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The Stackhouse Filibuster
Season 2
Episode 17
Written By Aaron Sorkin
Story By Pete McCabe
Director Bryon Gordon
Original Airdate March 14, 2001
Guest Stars: Tim Matheson
George Coe
Cara DeLizia

"Previously on the West Wing" spoken by Donna

President Jed Bartlet's (Martin Sheen) staff waits impatiently for elderly but stubborn Senator Howard Stackhouse (George Coe) to yield the floor as he stages a marathon filibuster, hoping to stave off a vote on Bartlet's Family Wellness Act bill. Meanwhile, Toby (Richard Schiff) is leery of the Vice President's (Tim Matheson) sudden interest in supporting another bill tightening fuel-emission standards. Donna (Janel Moloney) discovers that Stackhouse is holding out for more money for autism research, and that his grandson is autistic. Knowing the truth, the staff decide to help out the Senator and make his act worthwhile.

Elsewhere: C.J. (Allison Janney) anxiously paws through her memory as she seeks to locate a missing ceramic cat statue given to the President by a Mideastern potentate who expects to see it displayed during his upcoming visit; Josh (Bradley Whitford) strains to finish business in time to catch a flight for a weekend visit to the spring-training camp of the New York Mets in Florida.

SummaryEdit

OpeningEdit

C.J. is writing an email to her father explaining why she is unable to be with him in person to celebrate his birthday.  Senator Howard Stackhouse (D-MN) has taken to the floor and launched a filibuster against a piece of legislation on healthcare.  It's Friday night and as a result no one else can leave for the weekend (Sam had a weekend in the Hamptons planned, Josh was supposed to join the New York Mets for Spring Training, Toby was going to Colorado), including the White House Press Corps.

Act IEdit

C.J. continues her message to her father and explains how a filibuster works and how it was the Family Wellness Act that Josh negotiated with Congress and subsequent discussions with Senator Stackhouse that led to him taking the floor.  In flashback to the previous Monday where Josh explains to Senior Staff what the bill contains and what was negotiated in and out of the bill.

Charlie comes to see C.J. about a ceramic cat statue that was presented to the President on a trip to Egypt a year ago.  The gifts officer for the trip told Charlie that C.J. has the statue, which she realizes that she had but it broke.

Toby goes to see the Vice President on an energy matter (emissions standards) that came up in the news the previous day.  Toby tells the VP they intend to rewrite the Energy Secretary's remarks to include a rebuttal to the testimony made before Congress.  The Vice President tells Toby the Energy Secretary should not make the comments - he should.  Toby is not sure why the VP would do that but thanks him for taking it on.

Meanwhile, the filibuster enters its eighth hour.

Act IIEdit

C.J. comes into the White House Mess and finds Sam.  The two of them talk and Sam decides to write an email to his father as well.  Sam tells his father the story about how he got into an argument with a 19-year old intern from the GAO.  Sam volunteered to take an assignment from Josh on reducing government waste in the printed publication of government reports.

Toby comes to see Josh and Sam and tells them about his meeting with the Vice President.  Both are surprised the Vice President agreed to deliver the comments himself.  The three are in agreement - they are not clear on what the Vice President is planning.

Sam gets a group together to identify and suggest the elimination of more than 400 reports.  As the meeting is going on, Winifred Hooper, an intern from the GAO, who has been delivering the reports takes on Sam, questioning why he wants to eliminate reports that he is not even clear on what's in them (she has read the reports). C.J. talks with Donna about the cat statue problem.  She tells Donna that she broke the statue.  Donna agrees that C.J. is "monumentally screwed."  As she comes back to her desk, a staffer hands her a message for Josh from Senator Stackhouse.  Josh tells Donna that the bill was closed and there are not going to be any more amendments (Stackhouse wanted funding for autism research).

Act IIIEdit

[Josh is now writing a message to his mother] Josh was prepared to ignore the message, but after talking with Leo - it was decided to take the meeting with Stackhouse.  Josh goes to see the Senator with instructions to not give anything away.  Stackhouse wants an additional $47 million for autism.  Josh explains to the Senator the bill is closed and the White House does not plan to open the bill back up for additional discussions - they are trying to get the vote done and the bill passed prior to the Congressional recess.  Stackhouse dismisses Josh and walks out.

As the filibuster continues, Donna is watching the news coverage and asks for some tape to be sent to her - she has noticed something in some "B roll" of a campaign appearance of the Senator with his grandchildren.  Josh comes to the office and she tells him about the travel plans she has made for him to try and get to Port St. Lucie.  He returns to his email to his mother telling her about the press conference the Vice President held.  Toby watched from the back - mystified as to why the Vice President had agreed to this and took such a hard stance.

The President comes to ask Leo to dinner.  A prominent French chef is in town and has come to cook for the President.  Against the President's wishes, Leo takes his phone.

Act IVEdit

Donna finds C.J. and tells her that she thinks that Stackhouse has an autistic grandchild.  Leo and the President continue their dinner and the President tells Leo that he made a deal with Abby to serve only one term as President because of the the MS.  Leo's phone then rings and C.J. tells him they have learned of Stackhouse's autistic grandson.  The two of them head back upstairs.

C.J. tells the President there might be a way to stop Stackhouse, help him out.  Donna points out that the Senator can yield for a question without yielding the floor.  The President tells C.J. to make this happen - find a Senator to come to the floor and ask a question and Leo and the President go back to the dining room.

The Vice President is on his way out when Toby stops him to ask him directly why he volunteered to make the comments about energy.  The two have a conversation which leaves Toby still uneasy as to what the Vice President is doing.

Finally, the staff find a Senator willing to go to the floor to see if Stackhouse would yield the floor.  Everyone stood around the TVs in the Communications bullpen to watch it play out.  Sam, Josh, and C.J. finish their emails to their respective parents, while Toby sits in his office thinking, and the President and Leo finish their conversation in the Oval Office.

QuotesEdit

Donna:  Did Senator Stackhouse ask you to meet with one of his aides?
Josh:  Yes.
Donna:  Because, I don't have it down.
Josh:  Yeah, I'm not taking it.
Donna:  Why?
Josh:  He wants an amendment added to the Family Wellness Act that will allocate funding for autism care and research.
Donna:  And we don't want to?
Josh:  This is what's called a Christmas tree bill - everyone hangs amendments on it - we just closed it this morning.  We try and hang a star on top --
Donna:  The tree topples over and it doesn't pass
Josh:  Stackhouse isn't really someone who has a lot of muscle in this, so . . .
Donna:  You got this phone message
Josh:  From his office?
Donna:  From him.  "You're gonna meet with me or there's not going to be a vote while I'm alive.  Stackhouse"
Toby:  Mr. Vice President?
Hoynes:  Didn't I do it right?
Toby:  No, sir, you did very well, I appreciate it.
Hoynes:  Yeah.
Toby:  I'm sure you know I was curious why you would volunteer to do something like that?
Hoynes:  Yeah?
Toby:  So I got a hold of some private polling that you've had done?
Hoynes:  Oh.  Yeah?
Toby:  Uh, a significant number of people are concerned over your ties to big oil
Hoynes:  Well, not anymore . . .
Toby:  Yeah, but I was wondering, why did you put the poll in the field at all? . . .  Mr. Vice President, what do you know that I don't?
Hoynes:  Toby, the total tonnage of what I know that you don't could stun a team of oxen in its tracks
Leo: He didn't wanna make political hay out of his grandson, which is commendable. 

GoofsEdit

  • It is sometimes erroneously noted as a goof that, in recounting the story about being yelled at by an intern from the GAO, Sam calls it the General Accounting Office. The entity is now known as the Government Accountability Office, but that change did not occur until 2004 -- some three years after the original air date of this episode.

Cast Edit

StarringEdit

Special Guest StarEdit

Guest StarringEdit

Co-StarringEdit

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