WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Since President Biden took office and the Senate was divided in half along party lines, there has been conversation about dismantling the filibuster, a tactic used exclusively by the Senate to delay bills moving forward.
That conversation was met with great resistance. Now, Democrats are shifting gears.
While the Senate traditionally needs a simple majority vote in order to pass bills, if any senator chooses to filibuster, 60 votes are required to end it. This forces essentially any bill to have at least 60 senators in favor of it for it to be passed. While this tactic used to be rarer, its use has increased. Some senators feel they know who’s to blame.
“We now have an average of 80 filibusters a year because of the urging and direction of the senator from Kentucky, Senator McConnell. He has institutionalized the filibuster to the point where it is now the normal course of business,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Majority Whip.
Filibusters have likely increased due to the rules around them changing drastically. In the past, senators would need to speak for the entirety of their filibuster, and it ended when they couldn’t speak any longer. Currently, senators can simply state their intent to filibuster without having to talk.
The longest filibuster to date, lasting over 24 hours, was headed by former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond who sought to stall civil rights legislation in 1957.
“There are these historic occasions over the years,” said Lisa Mascaro, Associated Press congressional correspondent. “But, you know, over time, the filibuster has become more commonplace.”
With a razor-thin majority in the Senate — and 51 votes needed to change the rules — Democrats would need every member of their party to vote to reform. Some of the most moderate senators, like Sen. Manchin of West Virginia, were not interested in removing the filibuster but could be persuaded by a compromise to return to the old method.
“Senator Manchin has said he would be interested in this ‘talking filibuster’ idea … Not necessarily changing the rules, but just sort of requiring the filibuster to be sort of articulated the way it was back when,” said Mascaro.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently warned the Senate of what he calls a “scorched earth Senate” if Democrats do away with the filibuster, though Biden has already publicly expressed his support for returning to the filibuster tactics used in the past.