Filibuster Flip-Flop? Not Quite
It’s funny how quickly things can change on Capitol Hill. While Republicans steadfastly defend the same filibuster rule they wanted to discard when they controlled the Senate a few years ago, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid is scrubbing his website to remove his 2005 defenses of the filibuster as he pushes for reform in the 113rd Congress.
Once again, it looks like politicians are putting partisan concerns ahead of genuine reform. Some have accused Common Cause of doing the same thing, arguing that our work for lowercase “d” democracy is really a front for the capital “D” Democrats.
It’s true that in 2005, our then-President Chellie Pingree said “The filibuster shouldn’t be jettisoned simply because it’s inconvenient to the majority party’s goals.” But just yesterday, our current President Bob Edgar told reporters how the filibuster is unconstitutional, and needs to be cast aside. What gives?
Since 2005, the Senate has changed. How, you might ask?
That graph says it all. The filibuster arguably was overused in 2005; today its abuse is pervasive. And since the 1970s, it has been transformed from the minority’s last resort to standard operating procedure. That’s not just “inconvenient,” it’s downright debilitating to Congress’ ability to pass legislation, and it’s why we’re suing the Senate. When partisans systematically filibuster every single bill, and not just judicial nominations, they deprive all Americans of our right to a fair legislative process.
The change in the Senate prompted us to re-think our position. And as we and our lawyers looked more closely at the filibuster rule, its history, and the development of our Constitution, we were convinced we should work to advance filibuster reform.
Don’t think we’re doing this for the Democrats either—remember, Common Cause was founded by John Gardner, a Republican, and we’ve cooperated with other reform-minded Republicans just as often as we’ve called out corrupt Democrats. Stephen Spaulding spoke for all of us last weekend when he told MSNBC, “I don’t care who’s in power, I just want government to work!”
Fact is, filibuster abuse isn’t a partisan issue, it’s a democracy issue. Expect the party hacks to take whichever position is most expedient at the time, but Common Cause will remain steadfast. Our only interest is in the fight for a government that’s responsive to its citizens, not one that’s too busy playing politics to listen.
DC insiders might argue that GOP’s systematic filibuster abuse is retribution for what the Democrats did in 2005, and they might be right—but this is much bigger than party politics. When our legislature is too mired in gridlock to get anything done, it hurts all of us, and that’s why we need reform now.
Common Cause’s lawsuit to stop the filibuster is moving forward, you can read all about yesterday’s hearing if you haven’t already. Then, you can let your senator know it’s time for reform, and stay tuned to our website and our Fix The Filibuster page for the latest updates.