UPDATED 7:18 AM PT – Tuesday, January 26, 2020
Partisanship is throwing the Senate into political gridlock over party leaders struggling to agree on how to split power in the 50-50 Senate. This comes as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushes for total protection of the Senate filibuster.
Democrats, including Joe Biden, have been calling for the abolition of the practice and believe GOP senators will use it to hinder their legislative efforts. However, McConnell pointed out that Democrats were quick to use the filibuster when he was majority leader.
“They were happy to insist on a 60 vote threshold for practically every major bill I took up,” he stated. “So, we’ll continue to request that our democratic colleagues reaffirm this standing rule in the Senate, which they were happy to use on many occasions.”
The Senate filibuster is used when a party wants to talk a bill to death or debate for long periods of time to prevent a bill from passing. Senators can overcome this with a cloture vote of at least 60 votes, which is a hard number to attain with a slim majority.
If abolished, the Senate will need to pass laws by a simple majority. This would give Democrats the upper hand over the legislative agenda.
Sen. McConnell has argued keeping the filibuster would assure the GOP’s voice is heard and keep the Democrats from forcing their agenda through the upper chamber.
“If this filibuster has become so common in the Senate that we can’t act, that we just sit their helpless, shame on us,” he stated. “Of course, we should consider a change in the rule under those circumstances, but let’s see if we can initiate a real bipartisan dialogue and get something done — that’s the bottom line.”
A number of Democrats fear the filibuster would be a common tactic employed by Republicans in an effort to halt the Senate from operating even further.
I’m glad that two Senate Democrats confirmed today they will not vote to end the legislative filibuster. They agree with President Biden and me on protecting the Senate.
With this win, we can move forward with a 50-50 power-sharing agreement built on the 2001 precedent. pic.twitter.com/fHUCFxxXh8
— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) January 26, 2021
However, some Democrat senators, including Dick Durbin of Illinois, doesn’t think the filibuster should be completely scrapped, yet doesn’t believe it should be protected either. Instead, they urge the practice to remain in place unless Republicans continue to obstruct Democrats’ agenda.
“The people intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power to shape our nation’s direction,” said Sen. Durbin. “May we work together to honor that trust.”
Meanwhile, both Senate leaders are hashing out their demands for power sharing while working under guidelines set in early 2001, which is the last time the Senate was evenly split.
Once they come to an agreement, they can begin divvying up committee assignments and grant chairmanships to both parties.