There has been a growing push by Senate Democrats to do away with the filibuster, a decades-old rule that requires pieces of legislation to have the support of 60 senators in order to move forward. Currently, the Senate is deadlocked with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, making it nearly impossible for bills to advance.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced that the Senate will vote on a change to the filibuster rule by Monday, January 17. The vote will require the support of 50 senators to change the rule.
It’s highly unlikely than any of the 50 Republican senators will vote for the rule change.
In addition, Democrat Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have expressed support for keeping the filibuster in place, making it extremely unlikely the 60-vote threshold rule will be done away with.
But yesterday President Joe Biden spoke in Atlanta, Georgia to advocate for federal voting rights legislation.
In his speech, the president said that if Senate Republicans continue to refuse to support the legislation, the Senate should change the 60-vote threshold to permit bills to pass with a simple majority vote.
Whenever there is a tie vote in the U.S. Senate, the vice president gets a vote to break the tie.
“We must find a way to pass these voting rights bills,” President Biden said. “Debate them. Vote. Let the majority prevail.”
“And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but the change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this,” the president added. “Today, I’m making it clear. To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights.”
Of note, President Biden was in favor of the filibuster before he was against it.
In 2005, then-Senator Biden said on the Senate floor, “At its core, the filibuster is not about stopping a nominee or a bill, it’s about compromise and moderation.”
“Let’s set the historical record straight. Never has the Senate provided for a certainty that 51 votes could put someone on the bench or pass legislation,” he added.
Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was also in favor of the filibuster before he was against it.
“Constitutional scholars will tell us that the reason we have these rules in the Senate … the idea that 60 have to close off debate, is embodied in the spirit and rule of the Constitution,” Schumer has argued. “That is what the Constitution is all about. We all know it.”
Indeed, the founding fathers specifically designed the U.S. Senate to be different than the House of Representatives, where the majority does rule. The Senate was intended to be slower moving, more deliberative, and more careful to moderate the passions and desires of the people, which would be represented by the House.
“Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens … that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority,” James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10.
That’s why, under the original design of the Constitution, U.S. Senators were chosen by the state representatives to represent that state’s rights and interests in the federal government. They were not even voted upon by the people.
The direct election of senators was adopted by the 17th Amendment in 1913.
The filibuster is always a blessing to the party in minority, and a curse to the majority.
And inevitably, the party in control changes every few years.
For Christians concerned about the direction of our nation, we should remember that without the filibuster, many pieces of damaging legislation would have become law over the past year.
For example, the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and currently needs 60 votes in the Senate, would likely have been enacted.
The act was introduced “To protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.”
The law would have overridden state pro-life laws to and permitted “health care providers to provide abortion services without limitations or requirements.”
Though the filibuster does hinder good legislation like the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act from becoming law, it also stops bad legislation.
Focus on the Family President Jim Daly recently shared his thoughts on the idea of scrapping the Senate’s 60-vote threshold.
“Preserve the filibuster. This country will not be able to function successfully if it’s eliminated because one party will pass sweeping legislation in one session and the next party will deconstruct it once they are in power and pass their own sweeping contrary laws,” Daly tweeted.
“Rigging the pendulum of democracy is not healthy…let it swing.”
Photo from Reuters.