Republican rule is at stake- that is republican rule with a small “r.” Top Democrats are challenging a primordial U.S. Senate rule: the filibuster.
The rule dates back to 1806. It’s either hated or loved depending on who’s in power. Majorities despise it, for obvious reasons. They can’t pass their legislation without the consent of the minority. The minority loves it because they have a say on what kind of legislation the Senate will address. They also have the opportunity to derail any bill they want. That’s why current Democratic leaders don’t like it.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, is leading the charge against it. He believes that the Senate should pass legislation by a simple majority rule instead of a 60 vote majority that is required to prevent a filibuster. However, this same Majority Leader was appalled at then Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for trying to change the filibuster rule because it would open a “Pandora’s box” and ultimately be “the end of the United States Senate.”
But President Obama supports this hypocritical reform. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said that the “American people deserve a United States Senate that puts them first, instead of partisan delay.” People like Pfeiffer can’t stand the rule at all. Even the “non partisan” advocacy group Common Cause agrees by posting an online petition to “replace the unconstitutional filibuster,” even though this same organization vigorously supported the rule to obstruct Republican policies in 2005 (gee, I wonder what side they’re on?).
Who knew best than James Madison? He approved the constitutionality of the filibuster. He believed that each chamber of the legislative has the power to add their own rules as they see fit. The Father of the Constitution knew that there were going to be times when the vast majority of the American people would favor legislation that would go against the common good. The Federalist Papers are well known in making the case that there need to be institutional and procedural safeguards against tyranny be it both from a minority and majority even though the Founding Fathers feared more the latter.
The American people get that fear. I believe that they don’t want to get rid of the rule. They strongly believe in compromise by reestablishing a Democratic Senate and conserving a Republican controlled House of Representatives in our last election. They want both parties to put their differences away and get things done. And, that’s why the filibuster was created by the Senate pioneers. It forces both parties to comply. They didn’t want a system like Europe’s where one party controls the legislative and executive powers and rams their agenda through its people. Our Senate thrives in debate.
Eliminating the filibuster would limit political discourse. John Quincy Adams endorsed the rule in order to promote open debates on the Senate floor. Adams wrote in his memoir that Vice President Aaron Burr took advantage of the Senate rules and limited debates. Where would the freedom of speech go? Being in a majority doesn’t mean that they are the only ones that can speak in the legislative branch.
So, there are several concerns here. As frustrating as it is, our founders created this rule to preserve our republic. When Alexis de Tocqueville visited the U.S. in Andrew Jackson’s Democracy, he feared the “tyranny of the majority.” He knew this would become a problem.
Well, that day may sure come if Harry Reid gets his way. The President and the Majority Leader should not win this fight. This is all political theatre and not a genuine concern for more effective policy. The filibuster is a procedural safeguard that creates moderate policy for the public good. It creates prudent reform instead of completely partisan agendas. That’s why it needs to prevail. If we want good compromise that has people from both sides of the aisle working together then we need the filibuster.
The problem is not the filibuster but the political actors who want their way. This problem roots from both political parties. Haven’t they heard the American people in last election? We want compromise. That’s our republican principle. That’s why our Senate exists. That’s why the filibuster must prevail.