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Reform Advocates Call for End of Filibuster

  • NEW YORK - Although Democrats now have a razor-thin majority in the U.S. Senate, political-reform advocates say to pass progressive legislation, the first will have to eliminate the filibuster.

    By requiring a 60-vote majority to bring most legislation to a Senate vote, the filibuster rule allows a minority of senators to block important legislation.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has tried to force the Democrats to promise to keep that rule now that they hold the majority.

    But according to Eli Zupnick, spokesperson for the group Fix Our Senate, leaving the filibuster in place will invite a repetition of the political obstruction during the Obama administration.

    "If the filibuster is allowed to continue to exist," said Zupnick, "then Mitch McConnell will continue to be able to stop anything that voters just handed Democrats the power to influence."

    Supporters of the filibuster say it ensures conservatives will have a place in negotiations. Still, opponents counter that it allows a few senators to stop legislation vital to all Americans' interests, including New Yorkers.

    Zupnick said New York Sen. Charles Schumer, the new majority leader, is trying to make sure bills to protect public health and rebuild an economy devastated by the COVID pandemic can get to the Senate floor a vote and have a chance to pass.

    "Sen. Schumer has shown great leadership in pushing back against Mitch McConnell's demands to protect the filibuster and enshrine that in the Senate rules right from the start of this new Senate," said Zupnick.

    He added that while there are now fifty senators from each party, Senate Democrats actually represent far more voters than the Republicans.

    With many Democrats coming from more densely populated states, they represent tens of millions of more voters than their counterparts across the aisle. Zupnick said the filibuster "supercharges" that imbalance.

    "It makes it so that a tiny minority of senators, sometimes senators representing just 13% of the American people," said Zupnick, "can block the will of the vast majority of Americans and stop legislation that's overwhelmingly popular from being implemented."

    If every Democrat agrees, they could eliminate the filibuster by using what's called the "nuclear option," changing the Senate rule with a simple 51-vote majority.