Filibuster Reform

Chris Bowers is doing really interesting work tracking votes in the Senate for meaningful filibuster reform. The post he has up today looks at the appearance of Democratic opponents to reform. The list is an interesting one, ranging from conservatives who tend to oppose progressives regardless the issue (Nelson, Pryor) to senators who benefit from having out-sized vote based on their state’s population (Tester).

It’s really interesting to watch a real movement towards filibuster reform emerge on the left. Outside of a smaller leadership footprint than we’d hoped with control of the White House and both bodies of Congress, the structural challenges in the Senate are probably the most visible obstacle to actual progressive governance in America. To change the filibuster, there has to be efforts to educate the public about the problems it causes. People think Washington is “broke” but this is an assessment that doesn’t look at how conservatives ensure the government breaks. So education is obviously important.

But the actual whipping of the Senate is where progressive activism can make a meaningful difference. Bowers is right that the reform movement does not have to be grounded in specifics now – different reform options will, at this point,  close off support from certain members. Fifty-one votes may be the most equitable solution, but that doesn’t mean it is the absolutely necessary definition of reform. We just need to un-foul the works and make it so the Senate majority can get things done in absence of a super majority.

Filibuster reform is going to be hard. Likely harder than passing a healthcare bill. There’s a structural window at the start of the next session, but if that is not made, then change is going to take a monumental amount of work. It’s good to see people regularly writing about it now. That in itself is a sign that there is momentum for reform.

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