Voting Filibuster, Round One | Nel’s New Day

In the 19th century, a filibuster lasted only as long as the filibustering senators talked to the entire Senate. The end of the talking led to debate moving on to a vote. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed after a 75-hour filibuster, including Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-WV) speech lasting 14 hours and 13 minutes. In only the second time since 1927, a bill went on for a vote.bEven when filibuster use dramatically increased in the 1970s, the Senate had only 413 by 1990. The last 12 years, however, have seen its use almost 600 times—now for preventing any debate. Used to stall business until the next Senate is elected, a filibuster can stop the Senate from addressing any issues on the floor for up to a week. A bill proving medical care for 9/11 responders, supported by a majority of senators, died from filibusters.

Because filibusters tend to come from small GOP states, senators representing as little as 11 percent of the population can block the Senate as a whole from doing business. The 21 smallest states with two GOP Senators, giving that party 42 votes to maintain a filibuster, have 29 percent of the U.S. population. Those 21 states can override the population of 71 percent of the population in the other 29 states. Republicans might want to be more cautious about their constant filibusters: the 21 smallest states with two Democratic senators represent 39 percent of the population, meaning they could block GOP legislation for 61 percent of the population. The result is gridlock because Republicans refuse to compromise.

Sinema’s argument to block the filibusters asserts that any bill passed without it could then be overturned by Republicans in the future. According to that position, no bill should be passed because all of them can be overturned, those dealing with domestic abuse, clean air and water, healthcare, Social Security, gun safety, etc. In short, the Senate would pass nothing because Republicans are always ready to overturn laws that help the population and give people rights. Lasting laws—including Social Security and the Affordable Care Act—have a majority popularity and thus last from one GOP administration to another. Republicans have failed to overturn the ACA for 11 years, Social Security for 86 years.  

Voting Filibuster, Round One | Nel’s New Day