30+ Democratic Allies Demand Urgent Senate Filibuster Reform

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A group of 31 former chiefs of staff for both current and former Democratic Senators have now banded together for a new call to reform the current filibuster rules in the Senate. At present, the 100-member chamber’s filibuster rules demand the agreement of at least 60 Senators before moving forward at all on most bills, which allows members of the chamber’s minority to band together and stop progress from unfolding. Just recently, Republican Senators have filibustered bills including a measure to establish a bipartisan, non-Congressional commission to investigate the Capitol riot and another bill, the For the People Act, that would enact a broad range of new voting rights protections.

The former chiefs of staff who’ve banded together for this new anti-filibuster push signed an open letter to the Senate that emerged this week. In the letter, they say that they’re writing “to urge the Senate to repeal or reform a rule that is undermining the Senate’s ability to meet the challenges of our time.” They add as follows:

‘[Over] the course of the past twenty years, the filibuster rule has put a chokehold on the Senate. Legislation is now routinely filibustered, transforming the Senate from a place of meaningful debate and progress into a legislative graveyard.  Worse, the mere threat of a filibuster hangs over the drafting and consideration of legislation.’

In their letter, the ex-officials involved in the effort go over some of the arguments that have been presented in favor of the filibuster rules as they stand in the Senate at present, and they dismantle every one. Some of those who’ve promoted these faulty pro-filibuster arguments include Democratic Senators like Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), but the fact of the matter is that the filibuster, as it stands in the Senate, is preventing the functioning of democracy. Among other examples, the filibuster doesn’t meaningfully promote bipartisanship — “Requiring 60 votes to pass legislation discourages bipartisanship by making compromises less likely to succeed,” the ex-Senate staff leaders note.

Sure, removing the filibuster from the Senate’s procedures could lead a theoretical future majority of Republicans to pass their own agenda items, but such is, broadly speaking, how democracy works. As the former legislative chiefs of staff put it:

‘We know that repealing or reforming the filibuster rule will someday lead to policy outcomes that we deeply dislike, and that might have been blocked under current Senate rules. But we believe in a Senate where the people’s business can be done. The Senate is now faced with a choice between functioning and the filibuster. We urge the Senate to choose progress over a procedural rule that has outlived its usefulness.’

Read the full letter against the filibuster at this link.