Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned that if the Democrats abolish the filibuster, it would end up being a “nightmare” for the Senate. The filibuster puts a procedural hurdle of requiring 60 votes in order to end debate on a piece of legislation.
The Senate is currently tied with both Republican and Democrat parties having 50 seats each. This means that any agenda proposed by Democrats can be obstructed by Republicans.
By removing the filibuster, Democrats can more easily implement their progressive agenda. Many Democrats are therefore pushing to remove the filibuster.
McConnell declared in a speech on the Senate floor that the filibuster acted as a necessary check against improper acts of legislation. It ensured that laws are only passed when there is enough support for them. If the filibuster is removed, he said that there would be immediate chaos, especially since the Senate is split 50-50.
“Taking that plunge would not be some progressive dream. It would be a nightmare… I guarantee it… Destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory… The Constitution requires the Senate to have a quorum to do any business. Right now, a quorum is 51 and the vice president does not count to establish a quorum. The majority cannot even produce a quorum on their own, and one could be demanded by any senator at almost any time,” he said in the speech.
McConnell said that removing the filibuster will only make the Democratic majority realize that they have broken the Senate. It would also make Biden powerless against a power grab that he himself has been warning of for several decades.
Biden supports removing the filibuster
Last July, Biden said he was open to abolishing the filibuster depending on how obstructive the Republican Senators would be to his agenda. When White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki was recently asked about Biden’s current position, she remarked that the president’s stance on the issue has not changed.
There is a strong split on the idea of getting rid of the filibuster within the Democratic Party itself. Some people aggressively support it. Democrat representative Ilhan Omar tweeted recently to “abolish the filibuster.” Democrat Senator Mazie Hirono wanted to “revisit the filibuster issue” if Republicans continuously obstruct Biden’s agenda.
Democrat Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin also supports removing the filibuster if Democrats are unable to get their legislation passed. In contrast, Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have both said that they do not support the idea of abolishing the filibuster, specifically to protect the minority party. Democrat Jon Tester said that the bipartisanship promoted by the filibuster actually benefits the country.
Rogers Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, said that many people now think that it is time to get rid of the filibuster.
“Because the Democrats have the narrowest possible majority in the Senate, and they have a very ambitious legislative agenda that the Democratically controlled House is likely to support, abolishing the filibuster would make it far more likely that they would get major bills passed. They would still face difficulties, since centrist Democrats might object to some bills, progressives to others. But their path would be much easier,” Smith told Newsweek.
However, he warned that removing the filibuster will only benefit Democrats when they are in power. When Republicans come into power, the lack of filibuster will make Democrats powerless to block the initiatives of the GOP.