Filibuster creates division in U.S. Senate


Creative Commons image through Openverse by jwinfred

Former United States Senator Saxby Chambliss speaks to the senate while in session. The filibuster is used as a way for minority parties to voice their opinions in the Senate.

The filibuster is a way for minority parties in the United States to prevent bills from passing in the U.S. Senate. Created by the Democratic Party in 1841, the intent of the filibuster was to keep extreme bills out of circulation in the Senate. However, the filibuster’s power has been abused since then, especially throughout the past 15 years. Although some would argue the filibuster offers compromise, it leads to obstructionism and does not support a deliberative process.

Throughout the past few years, the filibuster has sparked a sharp division in the Senate between the two main political parties: Democrats and Republicans. The 60% supermajority required to pass a bill in the Senate furthers the struggle of the near 50-50 split in the Senate.

The filibuster is a process used in the Senate that, generally, leads to obstructionism.

“If it [the filibuster] continues to exist in the way it does, there will always be that potential for blocking by the other opposing political party so that nothing gets accomplished,” U.S. History teacher Ryan Miller said.

Obstructionism is an interference with the process of business, especially in a legislative body. The Senate is currently made up of 48 Democrats, two Independents (who generally lean Democratic) and 50 Republicans. With the filibuster in place, the Senate is able to pass a slim amount of legislation, and not much progress is made towards solving problems that many Americans face.

The filibuster, throughout all of its time used in history, has not supported a deliberative process.

Senior Mubaraq Adedayo explained that the filibuster was never mentioned in the 4,000 words of the Constitution. He further explained that the filibuster goes against the principal values of debate and conversation, which ties into the First Amendment of freedom of speech.

There was no official document stating the origination of the filibuster. The purpose of the Senate is to represent the American people in a form of democracy, and the filibuster does not achieve this goal. The sole purpose of popular sovereignty is not achieved through the filibuster as it shuts important legislation down.

The filibuster has been connected to many policies that support segregation throughout history.

If it [the filibuster] continues to exist in the way it does, there will always be that potential for blocking by the other opposing political party so that nothing gets accomplished.”

— Ryan Miller

Miller explained how 50 years ago the filibuster was seen as an extreme act. Today it is “being used with far greater frequency.”

The intent of the filibuster was to give power to minority parties that did not have control over the Senate. However, many parties have since abused its power to prevent important civil rights legislation from getting passed. The Jim Crow Laws, which enforced segregation, were in place for much of history because the filibuster was abused to prevent legislation from getting passed to stop these horrendous practices.

The filibuster prevents many ideas of reform, especially social reform.

“Moving to a more progressive approach to be able to move more quickly and be more respondent to the needs of our nation would be helpful,” sophomore Kiran Leonard said.

The filibuster is used to prevent legislation to get passed. This practice has been especially used to prevent social reform because it is not as easy for bills to get passed. Much of what Democrats and Republicans alike want to get passed are prevented by the filibuster.

Although some believe the filibuster should be abolished, others believe that it provides a compromise on legislation and should be kept. By requiring 60 votes, senators must debate and learn from each other in order to pass legislation. Furthermore, minority parties are able to voice their opinion with the use of the filibuster.

However, the filibuster needs to be abolished because it leads to obstructionist views and there is no official process. The power of the filibuster has been abused throughout the past 15 years where the process of passing legislation has been prolonged. If nothing is done in the near future to abolish the filibuster, the Senate will continue to be in a loophole of not passing significant legislation.