The U. S. Senate had its chance to show that bipartisanship is possible. Instead, Republican senators proved that it is not. Legislation favored by the majority will never see the light of day unless Senate Democrats eliminate the filibuster now.
On May 28, the Senate voted 54-35 to create an independent national commission to investigate the Jan. 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. Nevertheless, there will be no such commission because of an arcane Senate rule known as the filibuster.
The filibuster, with the exception of a limited number of financial bills, allows one senator to prevent a vote on any legislation unless at least 60 vote to “close” debate. The upshot is that nothing contentious can pass without at least 60 votes, far more than a simple majority.
The U.S. Constitution enshrines the democratic concept of majority rule combined with protection for the civil rights of minorities, a concept the nation is still trying to perfect. The filibuster, on the other hand, is nothing more than senators’ using and misusing Senate rules since 1837.
Because of the filibuster rule, the basic democratic principle of majority rule has been turned on its head. Senate no votes count more than yes votes.
Look at the filibuster another way. On the national commission vote, the two senators from some states split their votes between yes and no. In a simple majority-rules world, the commission would have passed even if all the split yes votes had been changed to no.
In this minority-rule filibuster world, however, enough split votes came from senators who represent less than 1% of the U.S. population. In other words, fewer than 2 million people became more important in the U.S. Senate than the hundreds of millions represented by the senators who voted in the majority.
It should also be noted that in a YouGov/Economist poll released just before the Senate vote, Americans favored the commission’s creation by a 56-29% majority.
The bill to create the commission included the changes that Republicans wanted. Some voted for it, but in today’s Washington, D.C., bipartisanship doesn’t guarantee majority rule.
The notions that the Senate is a noble deliberative body above the passionate dustups of the House of Representatives or that the little guy can triumph over wheeler-dealers are fantasies. In the real world, majority rule is about the power to make it so.
Democrats should live in the real world and eliminate the filibuster. Whenever Republicans regain the majority, they surely will.
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