Breaking News
Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+: Start 7 Day FREE Trial Register here
Investing Pro 0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your Investing.com experience. Save up to 40% More details

Explainer-Why does Joe Biden want to scrap the U.S. Senate's 'filibuster' rule?

WorldJan 11, 2022 05:16PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
2/2 © Reuters. Activists call for the end of the filibuster in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., July 12, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 2/2

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden on Tuesday said the U.S. Senate should consider scrapping a longstanding supermajority rule known as the "filibuster" if necessary to pass voting-rights legislation that is opposed by Republicans.

Critics say the filibuster, which requires 60 of the 100 senators to agree on most legislation, is an anti-democratic hurdle that prevents Washington from addressing pressing problems.

Supporters say it forces lawmakers to seek consensus, serves as important check on the party in power and ensures that major laws that affect American life don't change radically with every election.

Once a rarity, the filibuster is now routinely invoked. In recent months, Republicans have used it to block voting-rights bills and bring the United States perilously close to a crippling debt default.

Democrats could use their razor-thin Senate majority to eliminate the filibuster altogether. But centrist Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema oppose this move, saying that it will shatter the few bipartisan bonds that remain and give Republicans free rein if they take a majority in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has warned that his party would use other tactics to bring the chamber to a halt if the filibuster is eliminated.

WHAT IS THE FILIBUSTER?

Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate was set up to allow for unlimited debate. In the 19th century, lawmakers developed the filibuster - a word derived from Dutch and Spanish terms for Caribbean pirates - as a way to talk a bill to death.

Then-Democratic Senator Strom Thurmond set the record in 1957, when spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes to block a major civil rights bill. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy spoke for nearly 15 hours in 2016 to press for gun-control legislation and Republican Senator Ted Cruz spoke for more than 21 hours in 2013 to protest President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act. None of those efforts were successful.

Senators agreed in 1917 that a vote by a two-thirds majority could end debate on a given bill. That majority was reduced in 1975 to three-fifths of the Senate, currently 60 senators.

Under current rules, senators don't need to talk to gum up the works -- they merely need to register their objection to initiate a filibuster.

Over the past 50 years, the number of filibusters has skyrocketed as Democrats and Republicans have become more politically polarized. From 1969 to 1970 there were six votes to overcome a filibuster, the nearest reliable proxy. There were 298 such votes in the 2019-2020 legislative session.

WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM FOR DEMOCRATS?

Democrats control 50 seats in the Senate, which allows them to eke together a majority with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking 51st vote when needed. They can't overcome filibusters unless at least 10 Republicans vote with them.

Democrats were able to bypass the filibuster to pass Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus plan using a special process known as "reconciliation" that only requires a simple majority for certain budget bills. But that process is subject to complex limitations and cannot be used regularly.

Republicans have blocked many other Democratic priorities, though 19 of them did vote for a $1 trillion package to revamp the nation's roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

CAN THE FILIBUSTER BE CHANGED?

There have already been changes.

In 2013, Democrats removed the 60-vote threshold for voting on most nominees for administration jobs, apart from the Supreme Court, allowing them to advance on a simple majority vote.

In 2017, Republicans did the same thing for Supreme Court nominees. Both the 2013 and 2017 Senate rule changes were made by simple majority votes.

Some Democrats have called for eliminating the filibuster entirely, but they lack the 50 votes needed to take that step.

Democrats plan to vote sometime over the next week to scale back the filibuster so it would not apply to voting-related legislation. But it's not clear whether they have the votes for this either; Manchin said last week that he would prefer to get some Republican buy-in for that change.

On Sunday he said he might support making the tactic more "painful" by requiring senators to keep talking on the Senate floor.

Biden, who spent 36 years in the Senate, long supported the filibuster but has grown more open to changing it as Republicans have blocked several of his major initiatives over the past year.

Explainer-Why does Joe Biden want to scrap the U.S. Senate's 'filibuster' rule?
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (2)
Red Riley
Red Riley Jan 11, 2022 11:05PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
evil?
Me comment
Me comment Jan 11, 2022 10:25AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
They don't have the votes plus bad idea to eliminate it.
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email