Debating the Filibuster

There is a legitimate debate on the Senate Filibuster going on within Republican ranks.   Should Republicans end the Senate Filibuster which required 60 votes on legislation?  Two months again Congressman Lamar Smith wrote a letter to Senate Leadership asking for just that:

Our request to eliminate the filibuster for some votes simply underscores that in a democracy the majority should decide. The super-majority now required to advance legislation is 60 votes, which is not serving our country well. We are under no illusion that the elimination of the Senate filibuster for some votes will guarantee the passage of legislation much less its enactment into law. However, a move by the Senate to a majority vote that can approve some legislation would make it much easier for Congress to advance meaningful solutions to challenges our country faces.  


56 other Republican members of the House joined Congressman Smith.  Rep. Smith also said at the time:

A bad Iran nuclear deal merits the use of the Senate’s so-called nuclear option. I respect the separate rules and role of the Senate and do not advocate this change for every small matter. But for the sake of American national security interests we must place every available option on the table to stop this bad Iran deal. Had a simple majority rule been in place this week, both chambers of Congress could have voiced their strong disapproval of the Iran deal. It is time to send a strong signal to this administration that it can no longer disregard the will of the American people and their representatives in Congress.

Longtime staffer to the House, Senate and the George W. Bush White House Bill Wichterman argues the other side:

The long-term damage that abandoning the filibuster would do to our form of government would be substantial. The Framers of the Constitution intentionally hobbled Congress. For the sake of preserving maximum freedom, they wanted to make it difficult to pass legislation. Consistent with that notion, the filibuster protects the rights of the minority and requires at least a minimum level of bipartisanship in legislating. (The passage of Obamacare on a strictly party-line basis was possible only because President Obama briefly had a rare supermajority — it is the only time in our history that a major entitlement program has been enacted on a party-line vote, and Obamacare will forever be controversial because of that.) . . .

The story goes that when Thomas Jefferson, who had been in France during the Constitutional Convention, asked George Washington why they had created the Senate, Washington replied, “We pour our legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” Without the Senate, America would have been one step closer to being a democracy, and not the republic the Founders wanted. James Madison, the Constitution’s principal drafter, derided democracies as “spectacles of turbulence and contention.

Wichterman also points out that:


Conservatives have benefited from the filibuster in the past — using it to stop measures such as the pro-union “card check” and so-called “paycheck fairness,” and to preserve the Bush tax relief when the Democrats tried to rescind it — and we will likely benefit again if we at some point find ourselves in the minority.

It is unfortunate this debate has become necessary do to the extreme partisanship of today’s Democrats.