Should the Filibuster Be Eliminated?

The Congressional filibuster has come a long way since its introduction in the 1830s. No longer stuck in the days of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” a filibuster can be accomplished more simply by announcing an intention to block a bill in the Senate. Without 60 votes, that makes the filibustered bill impossible to pass.

But President Donald Trump would really, really like to see that come to an end.

Both Republicans and Democrats†have used the filibuster to their advantage when they’ve been in the minority in the Senate, blocking bills — and, most often, presidential appointments.

“Filibusters were never used more than 10 times a year prior to the 1970s, reports VOA.com. “They regularly have exceeded 100 per year during the Obama administration, sometimes to block legislation with significant public support, like stiffer gun laws, but most often to block presidential nominations of judges and members of his administration.”

In fact, nomination impasses caused Democrats to change filibuster rules for that specific reason, after†82 of President Barack Obama’s nominees were filibustered in an effort†to keep their seats empty. Even still, many of the former president’s judicial appointments were blocked — a fact that left an unprecedented number of vacancies for President Trump to fill.

And filled them he has, at a rapid pace. But that is only the beginning for the president, who is now advocating that the filibuster be removed from day-to-day legislation, too.

“‘If Senate Republicans donít get rid of the Filibuster Rule and go to a 51% majority, few bills will be passed. 8 Dems control the Senate!’ Trump said in an early morning tweet.,”†the New York Post reported†on August 25. “The plea is the presidentís latest salvo in trying to pressure the GOP to end the practice, including comments he made at a campaign rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night. ‘And for our friends in the Senate, oh boy ó the Senate, remember this ó look, the Senate, we have to get rid of whatís called the filibuster rule. We have to,’ Trump told the raucous crowd. ‘And if we donít, the Republicans will never get anything passed. Youíre wasting your time.’Ē

It’s unclear if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will actually do the president’s bidding and go “nuclear” on a legislative filibuster.†In the past, McConnell has praised the filibuster’s existence, calling it, “the last legislative check against the kind of raw exercise of power majority parties always have been tempted to wield.”

Plus, as FiveThirtyEight notes, the GOP has used it far more than the Democratic Party ever has.

[I]n the long run, itís not at all clear that eroding the filibuster will be in the GOPís best interest. In the recent past, theyíve made more effective and more frequent use of it than Democrats ever did. Consider some of the additional legislation that might have passed had the filibuster not been in place during President Barack Obamaís time in office. The list includes the DREAM Act, a cap-and-trade system to regulate carbon emissions, a gun-control compromise bill and a ‘public option’ as part of Obamacare. Democrats would probably also have been able to pass an even more aggressive stimulus package if not for the de facto 60-vote requirement.

While parties in power often want the filibuster removed, it is, as McConnell claimed, a last check on unlimited power of the majority. And that’s a benefit that even many Republicans can recognize

“Hypocrisy is often at play when it comes to the filibuster; senators in the majority oppose the practice, while senators in the [minority] support it,” writes conservative columnist†Byron York. “But there is also a principled, consistent position on the filibuster. Veteran senators like McConnell know that while they might be in the majority now, they could be in the minority next year. They know a lot of bad bills might have become law had the filibuster not existed. So many of them protect the filibuster whether they’re in charge or not.”

Despite President Trump’s blustering, the filibuster probably isn’t going anywhere. And that’s good news for both parties — and for democracy itself.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

33 comments

Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Paul B
Paul Babout a year ago

Jamie, Dems thought they would NEVER lose control of the Senate, much less the WH.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hillabout a year ago

I think if they want to filibuster, then they should have to stand up there and speak until the end of it!

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Paul B
Paul B1 years ago

My problem is that it takes 60 votes JUST TO TAKE TO THE FLOOR for final debate and a vote. I don't have a problem with 60 votes for PASSING certain items as that does give the minority a voice. This rule is a fairly new rule as it replaced the "traditional" means of filibuster in like 1975. You should have to "work" to filibuster as Dem Strom Thurmond demonstrated with his record of over 24 hours as resistance to civil rights legislation.
What they need to do is address the required majority for each type of vote, judicial appointment, SC appointments, legislation, budgeting, etc. But we should allow debate and easier path to voting without allowing a few to gum up the whole process.

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Ann W
Ann W1 years ago

Didn't Ted Cruz make a mockery of the filibuster with his Green Eggs and Ham rendition?

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Chad A
Chad Anderson1 years ago

Thank you!

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 years ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 years ago

Noted.

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Lenore K
Lenore K1 years ago

ok

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Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons1 years ago

Amazing how quick people changed their tune on filibuster once Trump got in office. I told you it was a bad idea to get rid of filibuster. I told you so. You didn't want to listen.

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