Can Dems Bust the Filibuster?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Two Democratic Senators are complaining about the filibuster. That’s nothing new. As the use of the filibuster (a 60-vote requirement to end debate on a subject) to block legislation and presidential nominees has increased, the complaints about it (usually from senators in the majority) have intensified. This time, though, they’re going to try to do something about it. Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) have introduced a bill that would reform Senate rules to slowly reduce the number of votes needed to pass a bill. Steve Benen explains:

If approved, the measure would not do away with extended debate altogether. Harkin proposes a new procedural model: the first go-around, the minority could demand a 60-vote majority, as is the case now. But if 60 votes aren’t there to end debate, a week or so later, 57 votes could bring the bill to the floor for a vote. If 57 votes aren’t there, it drops again and again, and after a month or so, a bare majority could approve cloture.

There are a bunch of problems with this. First of all, it won’t work. You need 67 votes to change Senate rules midstream. That’s not going to happen. The best bet for people who want to do away with the filibuster is to change the rules after an election or to set a time in future when the filibuster would be eliminated by law so that no one will know which party will benefit. But the other problem with Harkin’s proposal is that while it reduces the number of votes needed to pass something, it doesn’t do much to speed up the Senate. The majority will be willing to wait for the time it needs on big legislation, but what about the little stuff, like appointments? If the minority filibustered every appointment, and it took a month to get each one to a vote, you’d still be left with a lot of job openings in the government. So while I appreciate the effort, this isn’t enough. The filibuster is an incredibly undemocratic aspect of an already undemocratic body. It should be swept away entirely, not simply weakened.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate