Senate Holdouts Defend Filibuster

When Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D- N.Y, proposed a one-time exception to the filibuster in order to pass historic, federal voting rights legislation, it once again brought up the debate about the true efficacy of the filibuster. A hallmark of the Senate, the filibuster makes it possible for “unlimited debate” in the sense that multiple senators can talk for as long as they want about an issue. Many have criticized the filibuster, naming it as a delay tactic that allows nothing to pass in the Senate without pulling at very thin strings. 

Others like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) defend the filibuster, accusing those who wish to change it, seeking to “shatter the soul of the Senate for short-term power.” In addition, Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) defends the filibuster with his speech on the Senate floor, saying that debate hasn’t been solved in history with a simple majority— in fact, the filibuster’s 60 vote rule generally protects members of the minority party. Similarly, Sinema (D- Ariz) gave a speech on the Senate floor and made it clear that she believes the filibuster plays an important role in “protecting our democracy from the transitory passions of the majority and respecting the input of the minority in the Senate.”

Both President Biden and Vice President Harris expressed their disappointment with the turn of events in the Senate— the voting to preserve the filibuster as well as the use of the filibuster to end debate on the voting rights bill. This comes after years of behind-the-scenes work in order to push back against measures in nineteen states that have passed legislation to restrict voting rights. Including ending 24 hour voting in Texas as well as the stipulation that requires new ID measures for mail-in voting, the bill that Democrats pushed to pass in the Senate would aim to push back against those statutes as it would be federal legislation. By establishing nationwide standards for ballot access that aim to oppose new restrictions passed by the states as well as having the potential to restore elements of the landmark Voting Rights Act that was struck down by the Supreme Court.  

While Democrats see this move by Republicans as a way to restrict voting in underrepresented areas, taking votes away from them, the Republicans see the Democrats’ actions as a way to seek additional power by ending the filibuster.  Tim Scott, a black conservative from South Carolina, accused Democrats of pushing a false narrative of how state laws that are being passed to restrict voting, are in essence, “Jim Crow 2.0.” Scott refers to how he believes the comparison of the time in history where Jim Crow laws were a way of life to today, is offensive to not only Black Americans but “to millions of Americans who fought, bled and died for the right to vote.” Scott’s speech drew a heated reaction from Cory Booker (D-N.J.) who continued to state that Democrats are simply dealing with the fact that in 2022, it is abhorrent that states are “blatantly removing more polling places from the counties where Blacks and Latinos are overrepresented.”

Seeing the result of the final vote has prompted concern over the additional injection of partisanship into election administration and counting votes, called election subversion. The final vote was extremely partisan, falling exactly on party lines. Though all 50 Democrats did support the voting rights bill, all 50 Republicans were united in their opposition. This left Democrats 10 votes short of the 60 needed to break the filibuster.