Washington — The Senate should restore majority rule by eliminating the filibuster, according to a new report published today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. It has become clear that we will not be able to fix our democracy without ending the filibuster.
By eliminating the filibuster, the Senate would restore majority rule and prevent the Senate minority from abusing its powers to disproportionately silence the interests of the majority. CREW’s report highlights five reasons for its elimination:
- The filibuster undermines majority rule, a founding principle of our democracy. Majority rule was embraced by our nation’s founders, enshrined in the text of the Constitution, and reflected in Senate practice for decades. Giving a minority of Senators the power to block all legislation is an ahistorical, anti-originalist, and fundamentally undemocratic perversion of Senate rules.
- The filibuster was created by racists and continues to serve racist ends by advancing systematic racism at the expense of the rights of Black Americans. Today, the filibuster continues to stand in the way of protecting the vote for Black Americans and people of color.
- The filibuster creates a legislative gridlock that upsets the Constitution’s balance of powers. By weakening Congress’s ability to legislate, the filibuster increases the impact of executive actions and judicial decisions–to the detriment of our constitutional system of checks and balances.
- The filibuster prevents congressional majorities from enacting needed reforms. The filibuster is standing in the way of critical democracy reform legislation that would restore accountable, inclusive, and ethical government and protect us from abuses that endanger our democratic system, including the For the People Act, the Protecting our Democracy Act, and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act.
- The filibuster incentivizes partisan obstructionism—not bipartisan compromise. It empowers the Senate minority to block most legislation and prevent substantive debate, allowing 41 Senators to halt progress of any kind.
“We cannot separate the racist history of the filibuster from its present day use to support a minority’s attempts to silence and disenfranchise Black and brown communities,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “The Senate’s continued embrace of the filibuster will only serve to further degrade our constitutional system of checks and balances. The only way for us to restore ethical, responsible, and accountable government is to end the filibuster and pass urgently needed democracy reform legislation.”
In December 2020, CREW published an eight-part report, What Democracy Looks Like, calling for comprehensive democracy and ethics reforms, and proposed the elimination of the filibuster. The increased use of the filibuster correlates with the plummeting passage rate of congressional legislation. Not only does the filibuster affect which of the bills that come up on the Senate floor are passed into law, but even the mere threat of the filibuster is enough to derail important legislation that would likely receive majority support before that legislation even starts to move forward.
“We need to ensure that Senate rules encourage members to improve legislation rather than simply obstruct it,” said Bookbinder. “The Senate must eliminate the filibuster and pass pro-democracy legislation, such as the For the People Act, if we hope for any chance at fixing our broken system.”