Pop quiz: Which of the following statements about the filibuster are true?
- The filibuster isn’t in the Constitution
- The filibuster has historically been used to block civil rights bills
- The filibuster has already been changed numerous times
- All of the above
If you guessed D, you’re right! All of those statements are true. And if that’s the case, you may be thinking, why do we keep the filibuster around? Isn’t it time to abolish it?
We think so.
Knowledge is power. So let’s dive deeper into the choices above:
The filibuster isn’t in the Constitution: Not a single founding document mentioned a Senate filibuster. In fact, the filibuster was born in the 1800s, when southern senators exploited a loophole to kill bills by refusing to end debate on them.
The filibuster has historically been used to block civil rights bills: It was used to block over 200 anti-lynching bills and held up the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act for 60 days. That’s why we call the filibuster a Jim Crow-era relic; its repeated use in trying to block the voting and civil rights of Black and Brown Americans can’t be allowed to continue in the 21st Century.
The filibuster has been changed. A lot: What the filibuster applies to isn’t set in stone. In fact, the rules are arbitrary and have shifted over time to meet political needs. Most recently, Mitch McConnell eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in 2017 to get Trump’s picks, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and Brett Kavanaugh, lifetime appointments to the highest court in the land.
The filibuster is just a partisan weapon wielded to carry out abusive agendas and stop our progress in its tracks. Gun safety, climate justice, immigration, universal health care, raising the minimum wage, and protecting our voting rights all hang in the balance. It’s up to us to speak out and demand an end to the tyranny of the filibuster.