If We Can’t Get Rid Of It, Reform It

One of the very few things in today’s political environment that is abundantly clear is the critical need to pass election reform. We need federal legislation to outlaw gerrymandering and a variety of vote suppression tactics, to make it easier rather than more difficult to vote, and to restore trust in the maxim “one person, one vote.”

The only impediment to that critical necessity is the continued existence of the current form of the filibuster, which has made a mockery of majority rule. As everyone reading this blog knows, the way in which the filibuster now works requires any measure to be passed by super-majority.  Wedded to Republican nihilism, It has brought the business of government to a standstill.

As a recent article from The Brookings Institute noted, the Senate’s ability to pass pending voting rights legislation–which is favored by large majorities of Americans and even by majorities in both houses of Congress–is the filibuster.

I have previously shared the filibuster’s relevant history, but let me repeat it.

Originally, the use of the filibuster was based on a recognition that so long as a senator kept talking, the bill in question couldn’t move forward. Once those opposed to the measure felt they had made their case (or at least exhausted their argument,) they would leave the Senate floor and allow a vote. The first change came In 1917, when filibustering Senators threatened President Wilson’s ability to respond to a perceived military threat.  The Senate responded by adopting a mechanism called cloture, allowing a super-majority vote to end a filibuster.

In 1975, the Senate again changed the rules; this time, the change made it much, much easier to filibuster.

The new rules allowed other business to be conducted during the time a filibuster is (theoretically) taking place. Senators no longer are required to take to the Senate floor and publicly argue their case. This “virtual” use has increased dramatically as partisan polarization has worsened, and it has effectively abolished the principle of majority rule. It now takes the sixty votes needed for cloture to pass any legislation. This anti-democratic result isn’t just in direct conflict with the intent of the Founders, it has brought normal government operation to a standstill.

Meanwhile, the lack of any requirement to publicly debate the matter keeps Americans  from hearing and evaluating the rationale for opposition to a measure–or even understanding why nothing is getting done.

With Senators like Manchin  (aka McConnell’s favorite Democrat) defending the filibuster, eliminating it is probably not an option. But even Manchin has displayed an openness to revising it. In the Brookings  article linked above, the authors share a number of proposals for amending the process, and consider the pros and cons of each. They look at a variety of ideas: reducing the number of senators needed to open debate in the face of a filibuster; requiring the objectors to be present with one of their number speaking at all times during a filibuster; and shifting the burden to those mounting the filibuster–making them muster the votes required to maintain the filibuster whenever it’s challenged, instead of enlisting the 60 who wish to proceed to so vote.

Whatever the merits of these proposals–and I definitely like the one requiring these obstructionists to stay on the Senate floor and bluster throughout–I especially like the paper’s final suggestion–to carve out an exception for voting rights, modeled on the exception that already exists for fiscal measures:

In Part III, we advocate for one additional option that the authors have previously written about, and that has been getting some significant proponents of late. We term that approach “democracy reconciliation.” It is based upon the existing practice of budget reconciliation, which allows certain fiscal measures to have an up-or-down simple majority vote. As we explain, we would craft a similar exception for voting measures, allowing them a similar opportunity to be voted upon by a majority. Reconciliation operates on a key principle known as the Byrd Rule, named after the late West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. Because the current fate of the filibuster swirls around his successor, Senator Manchin, one may refer to this hoped-for new compromise of democracy reconciliation as “the Byrd-Manchin” Rule.

Name it anything–just get it done. Quickly.


  1. I’m afraid this is all gamesmanship by the corrupt tools of oligarchy. They have no intentions of fixing it or limiting the lobbying and dollars being tossed their way.

    That’s the whole reason they’ve taken those positions of power the oligarchy has bestowed upon them. They must retain the status quo.

    For God’s sake, they’ve normalized bribing a public official. If bribing officials are legal, minor issues of voter suppression and filibusters are irrelevant.

  2. An NBC News report this morning; Devin Nunes is leaving the House to take the post of CEO of Trump Media and Technology Group beginning in January. Trump couldn’t reform the truth so he is getting rid of it and has chosen his staunchest Troll as CEO. The article states “Nunes understands we must stop liberal media and Big Tech from destroying freedoms that make America great. America is ready for TRUTH Social and the end to censorship and political discrimination.” “Trump intends to even the playing field by providing people with open media platforms where they can share and create content without fear of reputational ruin.” Does the FCC have no power to control the content or will it use the 1st Amendment “freedom of speech” in the same bastardized form they have used the 2nd Amendment to arm anyone who has the cash or credit card to hit the streets with assault weapons.

    So he is providing a media outlet to return his administration format to the public; how will this effect the current voter suppression by gerrymandering and the almost assured end of Roe vs. Wade by his personal SCOTUS members? The Trump Republicans still sitting in both houses of Congress will “have an outlet for their personal platforms without fear of reputational ruin”; where they can make public their views which would not be accepted in Congress in their elected positions. Trump’s powers are increasing daily while we who will be affected by their decisions have no protection from his return to the White House.

    A thought; will his TMTG have jobs waiting for those who have decided to leave the House and Senate…can this be why they are choosing not to run for office again?

    We can’t get rid of Trump and obviously we sure as hell can’t reform him…or his GOP.

  3. The FOX network isn’t good enough for him? Perhaps that is because his name is not displayed prominently there.

  4. The FCC has already opened an investigation into Trump’s newest media toy. And if the damn thing does get up and running, its listeners will only be his bubba fans, thus syphoning off a hunk of Fox News’ followers. And besides the pillow nut who will advertise? So far, this does not seem to portend the end of time.

  5. Note first that it only takes a majority vote to change the Senate rules. I like the idea of using the Texas Senate’s rules for filibuster. One speaker who must speak continually with no breaks for the bathroom or any other reason. No passing the floor to a colleague, either. If we have to have it, it ought not to be so easy.

    On the subject of tRumpian anti-social media, the SEC wants to know who provided the billion dollars. I’m guessing either the Saudis or the Russians. It would be their dream come true to have an American President that they owned lock, stock, and barrel. As I imagine the content, I see a hell scape of immense proportions.

  6. People are actually worried about Trump’s social media company? Why? The man has never run a successful business venture in his life. He may be the worst businessman this country has ever produced.

  7. If the Ds get rid of the filibuster in 2022, what happens if the Rs have a majority in the Senate in 2023? It won’t sound like it was such a great idea then.

    I’m open to carving out exceptions for such things as reforming the Electoral Count Act. And I certainly believe the talking filibuster is better than what we have now.

  8. It is my understanding that the fillibuster was created to ensure that the minority had a voice in what laws are passed. We need to reform it so that it becomes challenging to maintain a fillibuster. It has become a tool of obstructionist tactics and enable congressional dysfunction.

    I would prefer we not allow a fillibuster for raising the debt ceiling and keeping the government open or for ensuring voting rights.

    I guess it will take an act of God to silence Trump’s own voice but then of course someone else will pick up the torch, someone like Nunes, Abbot, De Santis.

  9. from a blue collar point,the ongoing nothing by the elected,has only stagnated the economic growth of the population. over the last 40 years of my own working career, ive been continually working for whatever the going wage was. never mind,if ya want to get ahead,now its thru credit and whatever you can scrape by on. instead of a demand for a living wage, weve been handed the continous scam of being in debt,over being able to have a little stress in life. that boost the purple cow moooos,is nothing short of a percentage of people again,being led to a life long debt over having something to count on,by thier own pride in working. the course led by republicans is to disinfranchise the very people,they so call represent,by ongoing hindering of ones gain in life. the blow hard demos,who refuse to take to task, this very issue,now only blowing thier noses as they speak. only the Sanders brigade has open the wounds for all to see. but as the republicans snarl at our needs,literally, they find new ways to dumb the language,and pigion hole us in some sort of kidergarten of knowlege. this is evident when i talk with the blue collar people,the ignorance is deafening. this is all because we have no backbone,thru ignorance. the fact i see the passed down bullshit from generation to generation. if the filibuster was to be kicked to the curb,voting alone could be the turn in the road. but only if we take away the fox curtain and call them out, you have for 40 years, demanded the working class be a slave to your money,and our needs are trivial to your demand to support the very people who have for 40 years stole the wages and benifits,and poured that money with a smile into those pockets that now, laugh at us. the filibuster is the reason why,one party can deny us,the living wage and working conditions that are 40 years,over due. the fact,and take it as you wish, these suits in DC either red or blue, have screwed the very people they represent. eliminating the filibuster would pave the ground for those who do, support the largest block of voters as a whole, to pass laws and kick the rich to the gutter for a change. no one has the right to represent the people,unless they as a majority,do as the majority needs. these so called demos who have blocked any attempt in this near final scene,should be kicked from the rolls of representation and sent home. the majority of people in WVa. and AZ, should be the ones who demand in public,and in the streets, that thier vote was for represntation,was not to be again,kicked to the curb as they fill thier pockets. if elections were based on knowlege of the true intent of these wet rock undersiders, and they dont perform.a recall should be immediatly demanded by the electorate,and voted. the states of Az,WVa are deep working class. if those working class people can not bring thier own elected reps into line,based on the lies they sell them ,the recourse should be a recall,and censure of thier own words. the fact,media needs to stand down on debates,and interviews with these low life scums. the people should have a public forum over a whole state wide meetings. answers, with no beating around the bush,and the DC leftovers,respect the needs of the state represented.of course, theres the senate orgs.who pick the shit from the bottom of the pile, as my junk mail piles high with pelosi and such telling me how great they are,we need a emoji with a finger on the junk mail box. the progressives are the only voting block as whole,who supports the working class and small buisness. if your sold the line they want to tax everything, go back and tell me where you read that. and who wrote it. ill show you where the rich have scammed you into ignorance,and use you as a cheap whore,for thier needs at,any cost..seems to me,the rich dont like it when the truth torches thier ass..

  10. Yes, if the GQP takes back congress, no filibuster could be horrific. But, the lack of governing is already horrific. But if the voting rights
    bills get through a fillibuster-free, or carved out, congress, the GQP may be history.
    Trump’s new endeavor brings Nunes out of congress, brings in people, presumably on the right, who are going to entrust their money with
    a career criminal…sounds great to me.

  11. The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate. -Noam Chomsky, linguistics professor and political activist (b. 7 Dec 1928)

  12. Robin, that’s not why the filibuster was created. (Sheila gave a solid short summary of it’s birth, and growth. Although, it would have been worth noting how often the filibuster was used to support and further racism, as well.) Your understanding is propaganda, spread mainly by the GOP. It’s just an excuse, though.

    The GOP doesn’t want government to function, except wherein it supports the rich (including seating judges, removing regulation, blocking workers rights, blocking voting reform, reducing taxes, fomenting division, increasing inequality, etc.). The filibuster stops government from functioning. For the GOP, it’s perfect.

  13. We have done precisely what the ex- wanted. We have kept his name (brand?) out front in every conceivable way: press, social media, Fox, blogs, and every other way. It’s been a ‘field of dreams’ for this criminal. And now, here we are. We have delivered America to him on a silver platter. Just keeping his name and face before the public is perfect ‘til he gets his next chance…soon. Buck up there, citizens, before we wind up in even more trouble than before. Is anyone paying attention here?

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