You have likely heard the term “filibuster” thrown around a lot over the last couple of weeks. It is a word that isn’t used much outside of D.C., but it is important to you as the resident of a small, rural state.
The filibuster is a procedural tool used in the Senate to pump the brakes on a piece of legislation that the minority party finds troubling. It raises the threshold for passage of a bill to 60 votes as opposed to a simple majority of 50 votes. Use of the filibuster forces senators from both parties to reach a compromise on an issue.
In order to form a more perfect union, our Founding Fathers gave us a government that filters the will of the majority through a deliberative process of amendment and debate.
The filibuster was created to protect the voice of the minority – to make sure that one party did not have unilateral rule over every decision, and to slow down the process and force debate on important policy changes.
The filibuster sets the Senate apart. In the House of Representatives, it is all about majority rule. The Founders intended the Senate to be the “cooling saucer” of the legislative branch – the body that paused and took time to consider how the majority’s actions would affect the minority. The filibuster is an important method to accomplish that.
Simply put, the filibuster gives the party not in power a voice to speak for forgotten Americans and for small states like Wyoming. Democrats have relied on the filibuster heavily in years they were in the minority, as have Republicans. However, it’s shocking to me that Democrats have so dramatically changed their tune on the filibuster.
Our country is divided right now. If we want a more perfect union than we have today, we need more compromise, not less. This is why we have institutional norms, like the filibuster. When one party starts tearing up norms to achieve a partisan goal, they might gain in the short term, but they do irreversible, lasting damage to our institutions.
Our Founders understood that the ends do not always justify the means. That’s why we have the separation of powers, two chambers of Congress, and the Bill of Rights.
Right now, we need to choose the harder right over the easier wrong. Compromise is hard, but the American people have placed a great deal of faith in each of us to get it done.
I have faith in us, as well. We need to protect our institutions. We need to protect the filibuster, and with the help of Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema this week, we protected the voice of the minority in the Senate.