• February 4, 2023

Progressives Need the Filibuster – WSJ

Progressives make a mistake by pushing Senate Democratic leaders to get rid of the filibuster. If their agenda is worth fighting for – and it is – it is worth dealing with the inconvenience of dealing with the filibuster threat and the obstacles of forcing the Senate to stand up for days and days to speak.

Some argue that President Biden’s agenda can only be realized if the requirement for a majority of 60 votes to end the debate is removed. In fact, the opposite is true. Democrats should force disability-conscious Republicans to voice their objections to the president’s policies in the Senate. Most of the time, the mere threat of a filibuster is allowed to prevent a vote, but many issues would lack enough senators to maintain a real filibuster.

Granted, when the number of Filibuster Senators is large, it can be difficult to physically wear them down. But progressive programs are popular, and the way to move them forward is to highlight exactly who is standing in the way of progress. Attracting media attention and building public support increases pressure on obstructionists to end their unpopular activities.

Getting rid of the filibuster is short-sighted, but reforms may be needed. Here’s how: First, exclude the senators’ ability to filibust the procedural motion, legislative proposal, by limiting the debate to one hour. Second, change the cloture ending the debate from three-fifths of all senators (a majority of 60 if no seats are vacant) to three-fifths of senators who are eligible to vote. Those senators who block Cloture should be asked to attend and vote. Finally, the majority leader should remove or curtail the senatorial courtesy known as “hold”, which is de facto a filibuster.

The Democrats’ elimination of filibuster for judge appointment in 2013 resulted in the confirmation of a majority of votes from three Supreme Court justices and 54 federal appellate judges appointed for life by President Trump. It was a strategic mistake that will transform the judiciary for decades to come. (One of us, Mr. Levin, cast one of three Democratic no votes in 2013.)

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