Why Can’t Conservatives Be Honest About Filibuster Reform?

Bill Scher

Yesterday I noted that the main Senate Republican arguments against filibuster reform pretend that Democrats want to do away with minority filibusters, when in fact the proposals on the table simply ensure that filibusters be conducted in public view.

Today, the National Review’s Daniel Foster adds to the misleading. In his piece, “The Plot to Kill the Filibuster” he asserts that the Democrats’ plan is “the reintroduction of the ‘talking filibuster’ in certain cases, and its complete elimination in others.”

What “in others” is he talking about?

To eliminate the use of the filibuster before any floor debate has even started.

The Hill recently reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has “proposed that the minority not be allowed to filibuster a motion to proceed to legislation.”

The use of the filibuster to prevent any floor debate on a piece of legislation is a complete perversion of the entire concept of the filibuster, which historically was about extending debate not suffocating debate. And it violates the vision of our Founders, who did not want any one faction — majority or minority — dominating all debate.

To eliminate the minority’s use of the filibuster to prevent any debate from occurring would not stop the minority from filibustering if that debate did not satisfy its concerns. It would only mean the debate would have to occur and the public would have a chance to watch and weigh in.

Democratic filibuster reform would not, as Foster describes, ensure the majority would be able to “push legislation through debate at Ludicrous Speed.” Certainly not if it was unpopular legislation that the minority felt it could rally the voters against with public filibustering.

But that’s not what conservatives are worried about. They are worried about Democrats being able to more easily pass popular legislation that can only be killed through hidden filibustering.

Conservatives can’t admit that. So they keep misrepresenting what’s being proposed.

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