US Senate should dump the filibuster now!
Obsolete, arcane relic has huge negative impact on all Americans
Most people in western democracies – and probably three-quarters of Americans – get cross-eyed when they see the word “filibuster.”
They might think it is some kind of sausage, and you certainly don't want to know what goes inside it.
But, this relic of the Jim Crow era is the most undemocratic feature of our so-called ‘beacon of democracy.’ It adversely affects the lives of millions of Americans almost every day – and they don't even know about it!
It is almost criminally stupid that the US Senate allows itself to be twisted into a pretzel with this arcane rule. Are you listening @JoeManchinWV and @SenatorSinema?
It is the antithesis of good government and progressive policy. It should be dumped into the dustbin of history forthwith.
For those unfamiliar with the word or its meaning, a filibuster is a US Senate rule used usually by the minority party to stop all business in its tracks.
As practiced in the first filibuster on record in 1837, it involves a Senator talking continuously – even if it's just reading the phone-book — until a super majority agrees to end debate with a Motion of Cloture.
Under the current rules, at least 60 senators must vote “yes” on cloture. Until this threshold is reached, no other business can be advanced to the floor.
Whatever happened to majority rule?
A detailed history of the filibuster can be found at the Brookings Institution.
As a practical matter in the modern era, it takes only one individual Senator to threaten a filibuster to scare the majority party into not bringing up key legislation.
To understand how we got into this sad, undemocratic predicament it might be helpful to ponder a little history, especially for global readers.
Under the US Constitution adopted in 1788, the US Senate was never meant to be a representative body. Two senators were appointed to 6-year terms by each state legislature. For more than 110 years the voters had no say whatsoever.
Indeed, over 230 years the Senate has become less and less representative, even after passage of the 17th amendment in 1913, which for the very first time made US senators elected by a popular vote.
But it still remains hugely unrepresentative.
Look at it this way: Each of the two senators from Montana – with its population of one million – represents a million voters. Each senator from California, however, represents 40 million voters in that state. You could hardly get any more unequal representation than that.
It might justifiably be said that the only “constituents” the Senators represent are those who occupy the Swamp of lobbyists in Washington DC.
In the context of the COVID pandemic and the multiple crises facing the country, the chokehold that the minority party in the Senate has on all significant and urgent legislation is beyond abominable.
How so? Here are a couple of ways.
Dozens of states have already or will soon pass retrograde voting rights laws. Largely to nullify these state laws, the House of Representatives passed the “For the People Act” months ago and sent it to Senate where it has languished, because of a threat of a filibuster.
A similar fate befell the attempt to establish a bi-partisan commission to investigate the insurrection of Jan. 6. Passed by a squeaker in the House, dead on arrival in the Senate.
This is unconscionable.
The problems facing our country are urgent. Kicking the can down the road is not an option.
That a handful of obstructionist senators can prevent the US from becoming “a more perfect union” is no longer tenable.
It would take only the 50 Senate Democrats and the vice president to change or even get rid of the filibuster.
They, too, are being held hostage by two Democratic senators: Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Both are as yet unwilling to vote to change the Senate rule: Let them know they are wrong. Click below to email them.
Do it NOW!