Now that the Democrats control the Senate, the most progressive members of the party are seeking to pass radical bills and measures that had been shelved by the Republicans. To do so, the next step would be to eliminate the filibuster, better known as the “obstructionism.”
Although Democrats lead both the Congress and the Senate, at least 60 votes are needed in the upper chamber in order to interrupt a debate and proceed to a vote on a bill. This would soften the most ambitious plans of the new administration and also of the most progressive ones.
Thanks to the filibuster, the Senate had been able to control left-wing initiatives that would change the future of the United States, but now there is a movement in the upper House that wants to eliminate the 60-vote requirement to establish that only a simple majority is needed: that is, 50 plus 1.
Democrats could move to eliminate the filibuster and force a change in the rules with a simple majority vote.
Democratic senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said ending the filibuster should be a no-brainer so they can pass the Democratic agenda in Congress. “Of course the Senate should consider ending the filibuster,” he said. “The American people want us to act.”
The Republican party argues that maintaining the legislative filibuster is critical to the institution and is also of paramount importance to the minority.
An article by Chad Pergram for Fox News points out that although eliminating the filibuster is an ambition of the most radical Democrats and in practice it would be almost impossible for them since “changing any of the 44 Standing Rules of the Senate implies a procedural vote of 67 votes in favor.”
Within the Democratic Party itself, there are also those who oppose measures to eliminate the filibuster; for example, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ( have already said they will oppose blocking the requirement.
According to Alejandro Navarro, content director at The Impact Lawyers, “the issue lies in the fact that the Democratic party will not easily move major legislative measures forward, such as bills to address COVID-19 or the implementation of a Green New Deal, as this would require support from three-fifths of the members of the upper chamber.”
“It is because of all of this that the implementation of the nuclear option, a pathway by which Democrats can unilaterally nix the filibuster, resonates in the halls of Capitol Hill,” he points out. “Through this option, the Democrats would have a free bar to pass as many legislative measures as they want.”
Eliminating the filibuster is “a big mistake”
Julio M. Shiling, political scientist, writer and director of Patria de Martí told El American that eliminating the filibuster “would be a big mistake.”
Shiling explained that the U.S. system has been successful due to the effort of moderation and negotiation in institutions. Nevertheless, with tactics such as eliminating the filibuster, that would end.
“The founders of the United States wanted a cumbersome system that would force a consensus and an effort at moderation; the idea of checks and balances is precisely for the search for moderation and to avoid extremes so it would be a serious mistake to eliminate the filibuster,” he explained.
For the specialist the most important thing about the filibuster remaining as a requirement in the Senate “is that it avoids extremes.” However, he pointed out that it is unlikely to happen because there are Democrats who don’t agree.
“There are a small number of Democrats who are concerned. More moderate senators in the Democratic party are picking up on the danger of what this could represent in terms of radicalizing the Senate,” he added.
He added that without the filibuster much more unwanted bills could pass without deep analysis “like the Health Care bill when Obamacare was passed.”
“Budget reconciliation”: the ace up the sleeve
After not having the votes necessary to eliminate the filibuster, the Democratic party has an ace up its sleeve known as “budget reconciliation,” a process that essentially deprives the Senate of its two main features, unlimited debate and an unlimited amendment process.
Chad Pergram argues in a separate article for Fox News that it is “a legislative option to promote certain legislation with fiscal impacts.” It may be the next tactic to pass bills like the COVID Act; however to proceed both the House and Senate must pass budgets.
“Budget reconciliation has more implications for the Senate than the House. Debate time is capped at 20 hours and restricts amendments,” he explains. “But budget reconciliation stops Senate filibusters.”
Green light to the left?
Biden’s transition agenda is full of plans to increase the power of government. He and Kamala Harris have already released their proposals, and one of the things of most concern is that they would use the “Defense Production Act” to address the COVID-19 pandemic issue. This law allows the federal government to take control of private industries.
Another regulation of concern is that under the emergency economic recovery, Biden would implement a $15 hourly minimum wage at the federal level, a provision that could establish national price controls and undermine the free market.
“The Democrats’ impending socialist assault on our nation will make President Obama’s first two years in office look moderate,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) warned before the election that gave the Senate majority to the Democratic Party.
Rubio warned that with the majority, the Democrats will make socialist initiatives such as the “Green New Deal, socialized medicine, European-style taxes on American industry and workers, radical regulations that will hurt small businesses, and capitulation to the Chinese Communist Party will be on the agenda.”