Voting Rights or Bust!

The New York Times reports: “In an embarrassing setback for Mr. Biden, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, stunned her colleagues just hours before the president was slated to make his case to them in person at the Capitol by taking the Senate floor to declare that she would not support undermining the filibuster to pass legislation under any circumstances.” Senator Sinema disappointed colleagues and citizens who had hoped for progress on passing legislation to protect voting rights. But Sinema “was cheered by Republicans who credited her with nothing less than protecting the Senate.” Why has President Biden and Senate … Continue reading Voting Rights or Bust!

Grossman/Binder interview about the filibuster

Here is an excellent in-the-weeds discussion of the filibuster, between Matt Grossman and Sarah Binder, for the Niskanen Center. The two political scientists get into the current politics in the senate surrounding filibuster reform. It’s pretty fascinating, and a good companion to Adam Jentleson’s work (see links below). Here’s an excerpt from Grossman and Binder’s transcript: Matt Grossmann: So one thing that reformers often say is that these folks in the middle would have all the power under a 50 vote Senate, so why aren’t they in favor of moving it there? Molly Reynolds, who we’ve had on the podcast … Continue reading Grossman/Binder interview about the filibuster

Calhoun, Madison, and Minority Rule

Adam Jentleson has an essay at The Atlantic on the problems of minority rule and the filibuster. The filibuster is often justified as fostering deliberation, requiring the building of broad and complex majorities that cross the partisan divide. It might be particularly defensible when it comes to the appointment of judges—requiring 60 senators to approve of such lifetime appointments. But that’s no longer the case. In point of fact, as Jentleson shows, the filibuster really serves to empower a minority veto on routine lawmaking. It owes far more to the thinking of John Calhoun than James Madison:  “In his Disquisition on Government, Calhoun complained … Continue reading Calhoun, Madison, and Minority Rule

On nuking (or reforming) the filibuster

I’ve been thinking more than usual about the filibuster lately, for a lot of obvious reasons. I think one of the things at the root of current political unrest is persistent government failure and obstructionism. The US Constitution already makes it pretty difficult to pass legislation, but the filibuster makes it that much more so. Does abolishing the filibuster makes sense from a constitutional perspective, given the fact that it has been part of normal legislative procedure for so long now? What implications would abolishing it have for bi-partisanship? And how much does the origin and history of the filibuster … Continue reading On nuking (or reforming) the filibuster

Thomas Koenig on Madison and the Filibuster

Thomas Koenig has published an essay at Merion West that deals with a book of mine on Madison, but that pivots to super-majority requirements like the filibuster. He raises important questions that deserve attention, including whether unreasonable obstacles to legislating divert policy disputes to the courts. The specific obstacle that concerns Koenig’s essay most is the filibuster. My own view is that Madison, a ready compromiser who was nonetheless all but ready to walk out of the Constitutional Convention over the “confessedly unjust” equality of state representation in the Senate, was too majoritarian to countenance the filibuster. That does not … Continue reading Thomas Koenig on Madison and the Filibuster