The 60-vote filibuster rule is undemocratic, and it needs to go.
But as long as the 60-vote filibuster rule remains in place, a minority of senators — representing a disproportionately white segment of the country’s population — can stop any legislative action in its tracks.
The filibuster as used today is not a talk-til-you-drop marathon session on the Senate floor. Instead, it’s a mechanism that allows one senator to object to a bill behind closed doors. Suddenly, the hurdle a bill must clear goes from a simple majority to 60 senators—a much higher bar.
In practice, the filibuster doesn’t inspire bipartisan action—it’s a recipe for gridlock and gives the Senate minority total veto power over the entire legislative process, even though they lost the election.
The filibuster rule is undemocratic — it’s outrageous that a bill supported by the vast majority of Americans can be blocked by a handful of senators who represent a minority of Americans So if we want the new Congress to get anything done, we need to fix the filibuster.
The filibuster has a shameful history…
The filibuster has been used repeatedly to diminish the political power of Black and Brown voters and the lawmakers who represent them. In fact, the filibuster’s most notorious historical use was by Strom Thurmond in an attempt to block the Civil Rights Act of 1957. He and others tried to filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1964, too.
During President Obama’s term, a minority of senators used it to shut down and block the DREAM Act, transparency in campaign spending (the DISCLOSE Act), gun violence prevention legislation, and workers’ rights — all of which would have passed an up-or-down vote, but instead died on the Senate floor. Why? Because the filibuster allows the Senate minority to overrule the majority and block whatever bills it chooses.
A handful of senators — who themselves represent a smaller portion of the country’s population –should not have absolute veto power over our entire legislative process. That is not democracy. That’s why we’re calling on the new Senate to make fixing the filibuster a priority.
Fixing the Filibuster is hardly a radical idea…
The filibuster is not in the Constitution, which explicitly outlines when a supermajority vote is necessary — approving treaties, overriding vetoes, and convicting for impeachment — not to pass legislation.
The Senate’s rules around debate and the filibuster have been amended many times before — most recently by Mitch McConnell himself, who changed the Senate’s rules to ram through two Supreme Court nominees with a simple majority.
Now, McConnell is desperately attempting to keep the filibuster in place — so he can abuse it to stop the new Senate majority from enacting the will of the voters that elected them.
But here’s the good news — it only takes a simple Senate majority to change the chamber’s rules again and end the filibuster — meaning 50 senators, plus Vice-President Kamala Harris.
Many major political figures from across the aisle have already expressed support for its elimination, including former President Barack Obama, who called it a “Jim Crow relic” at the funeral of civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis.