With the incoming Congressional freshmen, there’s renewed talk of ending the filibuster. My girl Elizabeth Warren even wrote an article about it.
Let’s face it: the filibuster is bad system design. Congress is a body built around the idea of compromise, and yet the filibuster allows any senator to block any bill for any reason with just a phone call. Many of us still imagine the filibuster as a noble thing, where a politician speaks for hours in passionate protest on an issue near and dear to their heart. In its infancy, the filibuster was used like this which made it an interesting artifact of American political theater. However, today’s reality is quite different. Senators no longer need to stand on their feet and talk for hours, as even the threat of a filibuster is enough stop legislation dead in its tracks. Because it’s so easy and there are almost no repercussions, senators end up filibustering any bill they don’t like and very little gets done. It’s a pretty slow bus ride if every passenger has their own brake pedal.
Climate change demands immediate policy solutions, which means suffering along with every other issue Congress needs to address but is too paralyzed to do so. If you’re like me (and statistics say that you are, see chart) then you feel that our government has become increasingly partisan and dysfunctional. Ending the filibuster eases this problem, greasing the wheels of democracy by reestablishing simple majority rule. Conservatives in the minority will cry foul for the stopping power this denies them, but it’s a tweak that needs to happen and there’s no time like the present. No matter who is in power, this rule change is good for America.
Best of all? The fixes are simple. Two options:
- End the filibuster – Poof, gone. Majority rule returns to America. Dead simple and it will not be missed.
- Make senators have to talk through their filibusters – if you appreciate dramatic flair as much as I do, then this is the more appealing option. Senators may still filibuster whenever they wish, but now they must remain on the Senate floor to voice their opposition at length. If they give up, they yield their time and the bill passes.
So mark your calendars, because January 1st 2013 is the moment of truth. On the first day of the new year may we all bear witness to a turning point in American history: the day we put the filibuster out to pasture and began our long trek back towards functional democracy.