The Senate floor is perpetually rife with controversy and the hot ticket item of the week is the filibuster. The Senate’s official website describes filibusters as “action designed to prolong debate and delay or prevent a vote on a bill, resolution, amendment, or other debatable question.” In 1917 the Senate created a rule, “cloture”, which would effectively end a filibuster. To achieve cloture, the Senate would require a two-thirds vote; it has since been reduced to three-fifths, or 60 votes.
The Democrats have been working to eliminate the filibuster entirely, or at the very least alter its current form, going as far as creating a PAC to push their agenda. The No Excuses PAC, as they call it, has banded together to search for replacements for two Democratic senators who hhave pledged their support for the filibuster – Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Joe Manchin (WV). The PAC, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aides Saikat Chakrabarti and Corbin Trent, as well as former Bernie Sanders campaign representative Zack Exley, is also considering joining other open races in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Every seat is coveted in a tight race, as the Senate currently houses 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats (two of whom are the aforementioned who side with the Republicans on the current issue), and two Independents.
Dick Durban the Senate Majority Whip hailing from Illinois has long proclaimed that the filibuster is being “misused by some senators to block legislation urgently needed and supported by strong majorities of the American people,” even going as far as to call it a “weapon of mass obstruction.” He continued saying that, “filibusters have turned the world’s most deliberative body into one of the world’s most ineffectual bodies... if the Senate retains the filibuster, we must change the rules so that a senator who wants to bring our government to a standstill endures — at least — some discomfort in the process. We need new rules that actually promote debate.” There are many who agree with his notion but also those who view the filibuster as their last ditch effort to halt unfair legislation and want it preserved.
Joe Manchin left some room for speculation as to his stance on the topic, seemingly supporting what Durbin was saying about creating some discomfort for those advocating for the filibuster while not going against the concept at all. Many may remember Rand Paul’s epic 13 hour filibuster from 2013, in which he protested Barack Obama’s choice of John Brennan to run the CIA. Paul cited plenty of discomfort, including full body soreness, but the Democrats have a different discomfort in mind.
Mitch McConnell had plenty to say in regards to the end of the filibuster, in a speech to the senate floor on Tuesday he threatened that should the Democrats remove the century-old tradition they should "imagine a world where every single task, every one of them, requires a physical quorum...this chaos would not open up an express lane for liberal change ... The Senate would be more like a 100-car pileup, nothing moving.” The threat did not end there, he continued saying that "nobody serving in this chamber can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like...in a Senate that was completely drained of comity and consent" everything would be blocked.
McConnell then used a timeless tactic and pulled one of Dick Durban’s own statements from the past to use against them. Durban spoke out in favor of the filibuster in 2018, saying that if it was removed "that would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our Founding Fathers," Durbin said just a few years ago. "We have to acknowledge our respect for the minority, and that is what the Senate tries to do in its composition and in its procedure." Mitch also noted Chuck Schumer’s prior stance on the filibuster, as Schumer previously referred to filibusters as “the most important distinction between the Senate and the House”, warning that “majorities are actually never permanent” and when Republicans are in the majority again changes will be made.
The Senate Minority leader closed by citing his own personal experiences. He alluded to Donald Trump nudging him to end the filibuster, even calling him out on Twitter, over two years, but holding his ground and refusing to do so “because becoming a U.S. senator comes with higher duties than steamrolling any obstacles to short-term power.” He closed by suggesting it was a bipartisan responsibility to “keep the Senate safe”, effectively leaving the ball in the Democrats’ court. The filibuster, and the power to end discussion that it brings has long been a tool of the minority for both sides and so removing it now while the Democrats are in the majority is simply another way they are going out of their way to silence Republicans and steam roll ahead with their liberal agenda.