Posted by 03 August 2020
Calling it a legacy of Jim Crow, last week former President Barack Obama urged an end to the Senate filibuster.
Speaking at the funeral of Rep. John Lewis, Obama said that a good way to honor the legacy of the civil rights veteran would be to end the ability of senators to filibuster legislation. He noted that Southern segregationists used the filibuster in attempts to stop the Senate from passing civil rights legislation. He said that Congress should focus on expanding voter access, such as making voter registration automatic and designating Election Day a federal holiday, and urged the Senate to end the filibuster if that is what it took to accomplish this.
Senate rules require that a 60 senators give assent to cut off debate and proceed to a vote on legislation. This means that any controversial legislation is unlikely to pass in a Senate that is closely divided between Democrats and Republicans.
The filibuster has been allowed in the Senate since the early days of the U.S., and while it has been modified over time, it has yet to be eliminated. This is not something that is found in the Constitution, so a simple majority vote in the Senate could change the rule. Such votes occurred within the past decade to eliminate the ability of senators to filibuster judicial nominees. However, senators from both parties are reluctant to end it for legislation.
Those opposing the filibuster point out that it prevents a majority of senators from conducting business. They say it gives a minority veto power of the Senate's agenda in a way that was never envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Filibuster supporters counter that the Senate is meant to be a deliberative body that gives significant power to individual members. They argue that ending the filibuster for partisan advantage will have long-term consequences that advocates do not recognize.
While senators, both Joe Biden and Barack Obama opposed ending the filibuster. However, Biden now appears open to considering it if he is elected president.
Do you think the Senate should eliminate the filibuster?