It Is Time To End The Filibuster
The “rights” of the minority party should not come at the cost of minority rights. H. R. 1 must be passed to defend against voter suppression.
“Republicans Slam Dems Using Race To Attack GA Law”
- Fox “News” Headline 3/29/21 9:28 AM
In the most generous definition of the filibuster, the objective of the procedure is to ensure that the party controlling the majority in the Senate consults and compromises with the minority. In times where both parties are willing to work together, this moderates legislation and is good for the country. However, when one party refuses to engage with the other and believes that “willing to compromise is evidence of a weak position”, then the result is gridlock and the inability of the government to work on behalf of the American people.
While both parties have been willing to use the filibuster to block legislation that directly contradicts their values, the Republicans have turned the procedure into a political weapon. The use of filibusters increased dramatically during the Obama administration with “anything more controversial than renaming a post office [requiring] 60 votes during the entire Obama presidency.” Senate Republicans were especially derelict in their duty to provide advice and consent for the president’s executive branch and judicial nominations. While most presidents are given wide latitude in selecting people to fill these positions, Obama was faced with a situation where the opposing party “announced their intention to filibuster all of [his] nominees to the DC circuit court simply because they didn’t want a Democratic president to be able to fill any more vacancies.” That is not governing; it is obstruction.
With Biden’s presidency less than 100 days old, the Republicans are once again indicating that they will use the filibuster to grind Senate business to a halt. The majority of Americans approved of the COVID-19 relief plan put forth by the president, but Republican congress members voted unanimously to reject it. They rebuffed any attempt to compromise, forcing the Democrats to use parliamentary manuvers that avoided the filibuster in order to help the American people. Improving background checks is a solution also supported by most Americans, including registered Republicans, but Republican senators are blocking any attempts at making our streets safer by controlling access to guns. The filibuster is clearly being used to obstruct the people’s business and is harming Americans on both sides of the aisle.
Nowhere is the need for an elimination of the filibuster more clear than in the Republican’s determination to block H.R.1, the For the People Act of 2021. This bill is of vital importance to protect the rights of minority groups that have been historically disenfranchised, especially as states like Georgia continue to pass laws making voting more difficult. Knowing that broadening the number of people voting puts them at a disadvantage, Republicans have concluded that H.R. 1 will be “absolutely devastating” for their party and have vowed to block it. A Republican state representative from Arizona stated:
“Democrats value as many people as possible voting and they’re willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote — but everybody shouldn’t be voting.”
Building upon Trump’s “Big Lie,” Senator Ted “Cancun” Cruz offered the following hyperbolic opposition to H. R. 1:
“This bill is the single most dangerous bill this committee has ever considered. This bill is designed to corrupt the election process permanently, and it is a brazen and shameless power grab by Democrats…It’s keeping Democrats in power for 100 years. And how do they do this? They do this by instituting a bill that will promote widespread fraud and illegal voting. Under this bill, there’s automatic registration of anybody if you get a driver’s license, if you get a welfare payment, if you get an unemployment payment. If you attend a public university.”
The fraud that Republicans pretend to fear simply does not exist. Trump convened a panel to look into his allegations of fraud in the 2016 election and it disbanded without finding anything. The courts were nearly unanimous in rejecting his claims of impropriety in the last election and even his lawyer admits that “no reasonable person” would believe that the allegations made in her filings were factual. Apparently, the Republican party is full of unreasonable people.
Among those taking advantage of Trump’s “Big Lie” were the Republicans in Georgia who pushed through a 98-page bill to “reform” the electoral process. This would have been fine if they had fixed problems that actually existed. For example, they could have devoted resources to the long lines of voters, mostly in areas with predominantly minority populations, that sometimes require people to wait for up to 11 hours to exercise their right to vote. Instead, they found it would be more beneficial to prohibit any person from giving “food and drink, to an elector” waiting in line. Surprisingly, they did not prohibit voters from sitting down during their wait.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced an easing of barriers to voting that resulted in a record number of Americans exercising their right to vote. This is something that should be celebrated. H. R. 1 seeks to build on this success by codifying these changes, but because Trump and his party were at the losing end of the vote counts they are determined to block it from passing. If the filibuster is the only thing standing in the way of expanding our democracy, then it is time to eliminate this Jim Crow era relic. The “rights” of the minority party should not come at the cost of minority rights.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.