By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden last month sounded increasingly open to bypassing a Republican roadblock to change the Senate’s Philistine tradition that has disrupted key aspects of the democratic agenda.
After long opposition to the change, Biden, who has spent 36 years in the Senate, said Thursday that the chamber needs to “fundamentally change” the long-running process that requires 60 out of 100 senators to agree on most of the legislation that Republicans use to block voting. The bill and that earlier this month brought the country dangerously close to debt default.
Democrats could use their razor-sharp Senate majority to repeal or change the rule, although it would require the agreement of all their members, including moderate Joe Manchin and Kirsten Cinema, who objected.
What is Philibuster?
“Filibuster” means to delay taking action by talking about a bill or something else.
Senate filibuster Frank Caper goes to the 1939 movie “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,” when Jimmy Stewart’s character spoke for more than a day, and more recently in 2013 when Texas Senator Wendy Davis tried to block a bill by imposing new restrictions on abortion. Spoke for 13 hours.
The popular image of a lone legislator mounting an emotional hour-long argument denies the reality of today’s Senate, where a mere threat is enough to start a filibuster and hold a bill.
A filibuster can only be stopped when a group of 60 senators votes to end the debate in a process called the Super Majority Clocher.
Why is the regime a problem for Democrats?
With only 50 senators in their caucus, Democrats are currently unable to overtake the Philipbusters unless at least 10 Republicans vote with them.
Democrats were able to pass Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus plan without a super majority through another Senate strategy called “reunification” with the tie-breaking 51st vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. But the rules limit the use of that process.
While they received 19 Republican votes for a $ 1 trillion package to rebuild the country’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure, Republicans have blocked many other democratic priorities, including the measure of suffrage.
Senate Republicans have used Filebuster to block voting rights this year as Democrats seek to tackle new restrictions passed by supporters of Donald Trump’s false claims in Republican-led states that his defeat in the November 2020 election was due to widespread fraud.
They are warning that they could make a vote filibuster later this year to avoid a catastrophic debt default. An earlier hurdle in that measure forced Biden to say earlier this month that he was open to change in Philibuster.
But he went further in a CNN Town Hall on Thursday, saying he would support a change in the rules to pass the “and maybe more” measure of the right to vote, although he said he would not take action until Congress passed such a pair of bills. Most of his domestic agenda.
When did the Senate adopt the Philibuster Rules?
Although there is no mention of Philibuster in the Constitution, long-winded Senate speech became an increasingly common tactic in the 19th century.
By 1917, most senators had enough, agreeing that a two-thirds majority vote could end the debate.
But it was hard to get two-thirds of the Senate, so the Phillips continued. Notoriously, they were used by Southern senators who wanted to block civil rights law.
In 1975, the Senate reduced the need to limit the debate to three-fifths of the Senate – currently 60 senators.
That decade, while the Chamber was working on other bills, the Senate leadership began to agree to allow a filibuster-faced move to be set aside.
The move was intended to prevent opposition to a single bill from suspending all work in the chamber, but it did mean that Philibaster changed from a power-drainage strategy involving long speeches to a mere objection or threat of objection.
The number of filibusters has skyrocketed over time. A filibuster in the 2019-2020 legislature session, counting the votes to try to overcome the nearest reliable proxy, shows 298 such votes. Which is more than the 168 votes cast in the previous two years. From 1969 to 1970 there were six.
Can Philibuster be changed?
In 2013, Democrats removed the 60-vote threshold for voting for most nominees for administrative jobs, allowing them to advance to a simple majority vote, in addition to the Supreme Court.
In 2017, Republicans did the same for Supreme Court nominees. Both 2013 and 2017 changes were made through a simple majority vote.
Several filibuster reform ideas have been floated that could bring it to an end. This includes a waiver for just the right to vote bill, limiting the number of filibusters against any one bill, or forcing those who are filibusters to stand up and force them to speak on the Senate floor until one party moves.
Who opposes change?
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for one. He tried earlier this year but failed to get a clear commitment from Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer to defend Philipbuster.
“No one can start serving in this chamber … imagining what a completely scorched-earth-senate would look like,” McConnell said in March.
His move to allow a vote earlier this month was motivated by a desire to temporarily raise the debt limit, partly to protect Philibaster, according to associates and lawmakers.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Scott Malone, Aurora Ellis and Jonathan Otis)