Mauren: Its time to say goodbye to the filibuster

Columnist Jacob Mauren deems the filibuster an inadequate procedure in legislation. 

Jacob Mauren

Congress is frustrating. It seems no substantial bills can ever get passed and the institution is never able to fulfill its duties. Even winning a majority of both chambers seems to get a cause nowhere. Why is this?

The biggest culprit is the filibuster. This sometimes-glorified procedure has the ability to kill many bills before they can reach the floor. The filibuster, in its modern form, basically has been boiled down to needing 60 votes in the Senate to move to a vote on a bill. This gives a minority party considerable leverage in determining what gets passed in the Senate. 

The filibuster wasn’t even created on purpose. Its roots are traced back to 1806, when Aaron Burr attempted to streamline the Senate rule books. He convinced the Senate to drop some of the lesser-used motions and ended up erasing the rule allowing a simple majority to end debate, as it had previously worked and still happens in the House today. So this filibuster does not exist to encourage robust debate, it’s an oversight. It was such an overlooked loophole that a filibuster was not used for 30 years after it was created. 

You may have seen videos of Rand Paul or Ted Cruz speaking for hours on the Senate floor about nonsense to block voting. Maybe you have even heard of the film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” which depicts an average man heroically speaking for hours in a filibuster. Scenes like these lead many people to think someone must speak for the entirety of a filibuster, and it makes me think, why don’t Democrats just force Republicans to make fools of themselves on the Senate floor? But the ridiculous reality is that no one even needs to speak to filibuster modern bills. As long as a single opposing senator monitors the Senate chamber, it can sit in “debate.”

This is why it is time for the filibuster to die.

Democrats have been pressured and have at times expressed willingness to end this tradition. At first, I was hesitant to support this myself. What would happen if the party lost even a single seat of the Senate in 2022? We only won a majority thanks to a miracle in Georgia. Eventually, I accepted a move like this could very well backfire on Democrats but is still a necessary risk. 

What is the point in winning a majority if you waste it to honor some ancient rule that was created on accident? The party won to make the big changes this country needs. We are not going to create tax reform, invest in infrastructure or raise the minimum wage by bowing to some outdated mistake. The American people will never get the change they deserve and vote for. 

Killing this procedure is often called the nuclear option, signaling it is a breakdown in bipartisan cooperation, but I view it as a return to how the Senate was meant to work. Our government was built to protect against majority abuse but not to allow minority rule. 

Again, Democrats are certain to lose control of Congress in the future, and a Republican Congress will undoubtedly roll back some changes. But I believe two steps forward, one step back is better than standing in place for eternity. If the Democrats truly have put forth the better policy, the people will judge them and allow them to continue to progress.