Legislative Filibuster in U.S. Senate Could Be Erased

Will the Senate Turn into a Majority Rule Chamber?

By: Dejon Virgo

The Senate rules committee explaining the filibuster to a regular citizen. Photo Credit: brownpoliticalreview.org

The United States Senate has the ability to attempt to block a vote on a bill through an extended debate. This procedure, also known as a filibuster, is under review by Republicans in order to confirm more President Trump appointed federal district and appeals judges.

This potential filibuster rule change will cut debate time and make it easier to confirm judges at the federal and appeals level.

The filibuster has now been changed three times within six years from a supermajority to a simple majority. A simple majority in the 100-member Senate is 51 votes; while a 2/3 supermajority vote requires 67 votes.

Many have declared this change as the “nuclear option.” According to Politico, the Senate majority moves on the filibuster have now left the legislative filibuster.

Many Senators feel like this change will soon be terminated by whichever party is in the majority.

This is especially concerning because the Senate is up for grabs in 2020 with Republicans on defense and Democrats on offense. Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will try everything in his power to take back the Senate in 2020.

If Democrats or Republicans take control of both Congress and the White House there will be a lot of pressure on the majority leader of the Senate to get rid of the filibuster so the party can carry out its agenda.

Only one Republican voted against the filibuster and he is Mike Lee (R-Utah). Lee argues that the filibuster is put in place in order to provide some balance in the Senate.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) most likely faced pressure from Trump because he has called out Democrats’ objections on federal district judges. This move could cause more changes in the Senate if Republicans end up losing the Senate in 2020 or 2022.

The change of the filibuster started when former Senator and Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) changed the filibuster rules on certain nominees in order to get them confirmed.

This led McConnell to do the same and go even further. He changed the rules on Supreme Court nominees from a sixity vote supermajority to a simple fifty-one majority vote to get Neil Gorsuch confirmed.

According to Politico, Senators don’t seem optimistic about the filibuster staying with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), saying “We’re going to be the House of Representatives by the time my term is done. And that will be McConnell’s legacy.”

President Trump has made it clear that he wants the filibuster gone. If he wins reelection in 2020, and if Republicans keep the Senate, then killing the filibuster will probably gain momentum.

Some Senators are concerned about killing the filibuster, as after Republicans got rid of the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees a letter was sent to both McConnell and Schumer advising them that the legislative filibuster needs to be protected.

The Democratic nominees for 2020 have started to campaign on getting rid of the filibuster in order to pass legislation like Medicare For All and the Green New Deal.

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have expressed their support for getting rid of the legislative filibuster.

Bernie Sanders has just released his bill for Medicare For All and according to Vox, he knows that gutting the legislative filibuster will be the only way to pass his legislation.

“Whether or not you’re in the majority or the minority, I think you have to protect minority rights. I don’t think you can just simply shove everything through. There’s an argument for that, by the way, but that’s not where I am right now.”

The legislative filibuster seems likely to end but the real question is who is going to do it and that’s the game the parties are playing.

Both parties seem like they don’t mind getting rid of the filibuster but they don’t want to be held responsible for gutting it. For now, it is only a matter of time before one party eventually ends the legislative filibuster.  

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