What's on Our Mind 3-12-2021

What's On Our Mind

Yesterday President Biden delivered on his promise to help the American people with an historic Covid relief package. Among other things, the package will cut the rate of child poverty in half and provide $14 billion for vaccine distribution. He could not have done this without JAC-supported candidates in Congress.

But it almost did not happen because of the Senate’s filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to pass a bill. This archaic rule is used to delay a vote on a bill and obstruct the passage of legislation.

Segregationists used the filibuster tactic to oppose civil rights legislation. In 1957, Sen. Strom Thurmond spoke for a record 24 hours and 18 minutes to prevent passage of the Civil Rights bill.

According to Senate rules, the Senate can adopt at least one large bill, known as a budget reconciliation bill, that is not subject to the filibuster and therefore can pass with a simple majority. Generally, the provisions in these bills must be related to taxes and spending. This is exactly what happened with the Covid-relief bill, which passed 50-49.

The GOP has only one goal in mind: preventing President Biden’s legislative agenda. There is strong pressure to abolish the filibuster, but it would require the support of every member of the Senate Democratic caucus. At this time, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has stated he is open to modifying the filibuster to make it "more painful" for the minority to invoke and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has stated she wants to preserve the filibuster as it stands.

Presidential nominations, judicial nominees, and some budget-related provisions were “carved out” and are exempt from the filibuster rule. The Senate could exempt other issues, such as election security, and then not have to deal with changing the filibuster rules.

Originally, Senators spoke as long as they wanted on any topic they chose, unless three-fifths of the Senators voted to bring debate to a close on the Senate floor. Today, a Senator no longer needs to speak on the Senate floor to filibuster.

During JAC’s discussion this week with Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), he suggested another way to deal with the filibuster problem. He said once again Senators should be required to literally speak on the Senate floor until there is a vote to end debate and take a vote on the proposed bill.

“Senators could filibuster but they have to mean it enough to stand up on the floor of the Senate to talk and take responsibility for blocking a piece of legislation that is popular and inconveniencing their fellow Senators,” he said.

Perhaps it is not about changing the Senate rules to fit these times. Maybe the solution is to return to a time when partisanship wasn’t the driving force in Congress, rather doing what is best for the country.

To filibuster or not? What do you think? Let us now at info@jacpac.org