When you hear the word filibuster, what do you think of? Is it a single senator, holding the floor by talking for hours on end, like in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? Well, in today’s Senate, it’s actually much easier and less dramatic than that to kill any bill using the filibuster.
Any senator can delay a final vote on a bill indefinitely by invoking the filibuster and voting to prevent debate from ending. Unless 60 senators vote for “cloture,” ending debate on a bill, debate continues indefinitely, preventing the bill from ever coming to the floor for a final vote.
Using the filibuster, 40 senators out of 100 can effectively block any piece of legislation.
In practice, that means conservative senators representing less than 25% of the entire U.S. population wield enormous power. They regularly use this power to stop whatever legislation they don’t like. Even proposed bills with majority support in the Senate have been shot down, all because of the filibuster.
Despite its now-ubiquitous hold on U.S. politics, the filibuster was not written into the Constitution and it would only take a simple majority vote to abolish it entirely. Here’s why that matters.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
The filibuster has been used to block everything from gun safety laws, civil rights and voter protection legislation, pro-immigrant bills like the DREAM Act, climate change action, and more.
If the filibuster continues, conservative senators will use it to block any and all future progressive agendas, grinding the Senate to a halt, and ignoring what the American people put them in office to do: govern.
Even if Donald Trump loses in November and Democrats flip the Senate, a progressive agenda will not pass without ending the filibuster. The fix is simple: a majority vote in the Senate will abolish the filibuster. In order to make that happen, we need to create the political pressure now to get it done.
Ending the filibuster must be on the agenda of whoever becomes our next president. They can’t be successful if a minority of senators representing a small fraction of the country can block any chance of meaningful progress.