Filibustering is for the birds: Monday Musings 2021-06-07

There’s been considerable chatter these past few months about a tool called the “filibuster” in the US Senate.

It’s basically a way for the minority Party of the Senate to prevent legislation from moving forward to a vote. It used to be that a filibuster was when one or more Senators could talk for as long as they wished on any subject they chose during debate – a process that could only be stopped if 60 Senators agree to close debate – but now it merely requires a threat to filibuster to hold up a vote.

So when you have a 50-50 split of the Senate, you can understand why not much gets done. We saw very recently how Republicans filibustered a bill to establish a Jan 6 commission – to fully fund an investigation into every aspect that led to one of the most appalling moments in our country’s history. Even with several Republicans on board, they couldn’t get to a 60-vote threshold needed to overcome the filibuster.

Interestingly, and not surprisingly, the three conservative judges recently appointed to the Supreme Court were able to do so, because the then Republican Senate Majority changed the rules to say that the filibuster rule no longer needed to be in effect. A simple 1-vote majority would be enough to confirm one of their judges. But now that they’re no longer the majority party, the filibuster is suddenly important!

Now I can appreciate the desire to give the minority party some tools to prevent them from being railroaded. Recently, “Democrat” Senator Kyrsten Sinema stated that the filibuster was “…a tool that protects the democracy of our nation.”

But is it truly a democracy that’s being saved here?

If the 50-50 Senate split represented the citizens of the United States more evenly, I could buy into that.

But here’s the truth: The 50% represented by Republican Senators covers 41.5 million fewer Americans than those represented by Democratic Senators. That’s 12.5% of Americans.

And that’s if it were a 50-50 split. To overcome a filibuster, you need to get to 60-40. Now if 50-50 itself is currently an unfair balance – one that weakens the representation of the Democratic-leaning voter, then 60-40 spreads that disparity even further where those 40 Senators, representing only a third of the nation, can stop the business of the other two thirds.

Is THAT the democracy we’re trying to protect? Or does that just fuel the do-nothing perception of the federal legislation year after year after year?

Do away with the filibuster completely? Perhaps in a nation where 1 Senator from Wyoming who represents 290,000 voters carries as much weight as a 1 Senator from California who represents 19.7 million voters it seems to make sense. Or replace it with something where one person cannot keep preventing the other two from ever getting anything done, especially if that one person were a QANON, Trump-worshipping nutjob.

That’s it for today’s Monday Musings. And if you’re not registered to vote do so to bring democracy back to our democracy. We’re going to need to overcome these odds that are stacked against us and vote in those good legislators that truly believe in fair representation!

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