People often ask me, as a Constitutional scholar, about what the Constitutional provisions are for the filibuster.
It’s actually very simple.
There is no mention whatsoever of the word “filibuster” anywhere in the Constitution. It’s not even there under a different name. It never even happened until a hundred years or so after the Constitution was passed.
It’s a Senate rule that allows a Senator to speak as long as they want to block a bill unless 2/3rds of the Senate votes to shut them up. And it has been used more often to block progressive legislation than the other way around.
As you may have guessed, the conservative Senators use it a lot more than the liberal ones but have had no problem in breaking the filibuster rule when it worked in their favor. Their current claim about the sancity of it is bullshit, of course. They’d get rid of it in a second if it would benefit them.
So it could be changed tomorrow without any harm coming to the Constitution in the slightest.
But what happens is that Republicans filibuster anything a Democrat tries to do, meaning that in order to get anything passed, instead of just getting a majority to vote for it, you need sixty Senators. This seems to contradict the entire idea of majority rule, because it allows the minority to block anything even if the majority of Americans want it.
This is especially true now, since the Senate is inherently unrepresentative. The smaller, more conservative states each get two Senators no matter how slight their population. The Republicans in the Senate haven’t represented the majority of Americans since 1996. This is why, despite our views being the majority views in America, we can’t seem to get our agenda passed.
I’m not going to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining why the rule should be changed. I just wanted to point out that it’s not in the freakin’ Constitution already, no matter what some idiot on the internet might say.
Indeed, far from being in the Constitution, the filibuster is not even a law. It exists only because the Senate does not have a motion to end debate that requires only a majority vote. Since the House does, that’s why there are no filibusters there.
The concept of a filibuster has existed for a long time, however, even in British law. It just was hardly ever used. And certainly not how it is currently used in the US, where all you have to do is say “We plan to filibuster” and that’s as good as actually having to stand there and speak for hours.
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