The Importance of the Filibuster

WHAT IT IS

  • An effort to delay or stop Senate action by minority party members; Senate members delay through prolonged speeches or other obstructive actions.
  • Prior to “nuclear option” taking effect, the Senate could end filibuster when 60 Senate members vote on a cloture to put a stop to the tactic.
  • Nuclear option: changed the Senate rules to require only “simple majority” (51 votes) to approve the nominee instead of 60.

WHY IT MATTERS

Filibustering is a way for the minority party to prevent the majority from enacting legislation they don’t agree with. Use of the filibuster has grown over the past 40 years, and this is attributed to partisanship and the growing differences between the two parties. The practice is generally not used for Supreme Court nominees.

  • FAVOR CHANGE – “Death to The Filibuster”

    • Time waster: The practice is inefficient. Senator Harry Reid called Senator Ted Cruz’s 2013 filibuster attempt to prevent funding for the Affordable Care Act “a big waste of time”.
    • Abused: Filibusters are used too often, and have made action on routine legislative issues difficult.
  • STAY THE SAME – “Keep the Debates Going”

    • Power to one party: The filibuster serves as another form of checks and balances to ensure one party doesn’t have all the power.
    • Encourages bipartisanship: Killing the filibuster ends the debate too early before progress can be made.

 WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Democrats attempted to filibuster President Trump’s pick for Supreme Court Justice, Judge Neil Gorsuch.
  • April 6, 2017: An attempted cloture by the Republicans failed with 55 senate members in favor of enacting the motion; 45 were opposed.
  • April 6, 2017: The Senate voted to use the nuclear option, which means the nomination of Judge Gorsuch can proceed.
  • April 7, 2017: The Senate confirmed Judge Gorsuch as a Supreme Court Justice.
  • Utilizing the nuclear option to further a Supreme Court selection is unprecedented and causing debates about whether this is the beginning of the end of the filibuster.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Is the unprecedented use of going nuclear for Supreme Court nominees going to have long-term effects on filibustering?
  • Is filibustering being used too often?
  • Does the practice of filibustering actually create more discord and partisanship?