How removing the Senate Filibuster leads to further polarization in the United States and give greater threat to Democracy
Senate and House Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) have called for abolishing the Senate filibuster in order to pass some of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. On March 1, 2021, Senator Warren tweeted “In 2019, I said that if Mitch McConnell used the filibuster to hold a Democratic Senate majority hostage…we would need to get rid of the filibuster. It is time.” In contrast, Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has been an advocate against ending the Senate filibuster saying she is “against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind about eliminating the filibuster.” Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has also been against ending the Senate filibuster. Senator Manchin started an op-ed with the title “I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster” to make his position clear. So, what exactly is the Senate filibuster that many Senators and Representatives are tweeting about and talking about in television?
The Senate filibuster is a procedure in which a senator in the U.S. Senate debates on the Senate floor over a bill in an attempt to delay or block any Senate action regarding the bill. A filibuster could go on as long as one wants because a U.S. Senator can have unlimited debate unless Rule XXII, known as the Cloture Rule, is proceeded in which the Senate can place a time limit (usually 30 hours) on consideration of a bill and overcomes the filibuster by a vote of three-fifths of the full Senate (60 of 100). Without the majority party having 60 U.S. Senators to block a filibuster, then a bill would probably have to be compromised to pass through the Senate even though the Senate just needs a simple majority (51 of 100) to pass a bill. The Senate filibuster has stopped past U.S. Presidents from accomplishing legislative goals such as President Obama’s “DREAM ACT” in 2010.
The Senate filibuster is often seen as a way that forces both political parties to come to getter and try and pass a bipartisan bill that would have everyone having a say in it. A current bill that is viewed as bipartisan is H.R. bill 3684 named the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” This legislative bill was able to get both parties to work together and compromise on an infrastructure bill that was able to get over the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. Bipartisanship can help heal the political polarization that the country has faced for the past decade. If Senate Democrats were to proceed in trying to abolish the Senate filibuster, then this could ultimately lead to more division amongst citizens and political polarization than we have today. Abolishing the Senate filibuster would also make Joe Biden look like a hypocrite because he campaigned on ‘unity and coming together’ during the 2020 Presidential campaign. His Democratic colleagues and leader would be pursuing actions that do not bring unity and instead further divide this country by not compromising & working together. This would be viewed as potentially causing further democratic erosion in the United States.
From a political standpoint, Democrats should not proceed in trying to abolish the Senate filibuster. They should be reflecting on the consequences they faced for when they decided to go ‘nuclear’ in 2013 by eliminating the senate filibuster for executive branch and judicial nominees in the Senate with the exception of judicial nominees for the Supreme Court. They claimed to have done this because of the obstruction by Republican Senators on President Obama’s nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “You will no doubt come to regret this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think,” and he was right in making the statement.
Abolishing this filibuster on nominations would come back and ‘bite’ them for when President Trump took office in 2017. In 2017, President Trump appointed and confirmed controversial nominees like Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education and Jeff Sessions for Attorney General without any successful obstruction by Democrats. Republican Senators would abolish the Senate Filibuster for judicial nominee’s on the Supreme Court. In doing so, they successfully approved three nominees to Supreme Court without obstruction, Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017, Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, and Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020. During this time the Democratic Party was the party arguing against the abolishment of the filibuster. 32 Senate Democrats, alongside 28 Republicans, signed a letter to Senate Leaders in support of preserving Senate filibuster rules.
One might argue that the filibuster does not work in highly polarized times to promote bipartisanship. Instead, it gives the minority party a veto power to repeatedly use to block any significant legislation that the majority party was elected to carry out. If this is to happen, voters in the United States should use their power of voting and elect representatives willing to work across aisles and work on any legislation in a bipartisan way between the majority & minority parties. One thing that seems to be hurting this country is that voters are voting for primary candidates that are seen as more progressive and conservative than previously before, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, and those candidates are not willing to work across the aisle when it comes to important issues.
In Conclusion, while eliminating the Senate filibuster does seem to be a political advantage for Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, as of 2021, it could potentially cause further political polarization in the United States and cause democracy to erode in the United States further. Like then-Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) once said, “We should not deny the right of the minority to filibuster, but we need to do a much better job of making them own it.” Although the Senate filibuster can often be viewed as an obstruction in achieving a majority parties’ legislative agenda, one has to remember the important reason why it is in place. If it was to be abolished, the political polarization would ultimately arise and potentially cause greater harm to democracy in the United States
 Warren, Elizabeth [@ewarren]. “In 2019, I said that if Mitch McConnell used the filibuster to hold a Democratic Senate majority hostage —and block us from getting things done for the American people—we would need to get rid of the filibuster. It is time.” Twitter, March 1, 2021, https://twitter.com/ewarren/status/1366455917915553809?lang=en
 Manchin III, Joe. “Opinion | Joe Manchin: I Will Not Vote to Eliminate or Weaken the Filibuster.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 12 Apr. 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/joe-manchin-filibuster-vote/2021/04/07/cdbd53c6-97da-11eb-a6d0-13d207aadb78_story.html
 Tim Lau. “The Filibuster, Explained.” Brennan Center for Justice, 26 Apr. 2021, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/filibuster-explained
 “Actions – H.R.3684 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” Congress.gov, Library of Congress, 1 October 2021, https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/3684/actions.
I think you gave a really great overview on a topic that seems to allude much of the American public save the individuals who really enjoy politics or study politics. I also have to say I fully agree with you. Although there is no constitutional provision for the filibuster, and its existence can be accredited to the legislative gridlock that frustrates many American’s today, the existence of the filibuster is one rooted in purpose and getting rid of it would have substantial consequences. I am currently taking POLS4105 American Political Development and found the subject matter tends to overlap quite nicely with what we have been learning in Democratic Erosion. In APD, we learned just how the filibuster came to be. The Framers set up Congress in a way that the two chambers have set their own rules and grown into their own institutions separate of each other. In the early 1800s, the House adopted the Previous Question Motion, allowing Representatives to go back to the previous question no matter what stage of debate on a piece of legislation they are in, or if the vote has already been done. The Senate never adopted this, and instead adopted the filibuster. Because of the Senate’s lack of previous question motion, the filibuster has been allowed to thrive in history. With a history rooted so deep in the early days of our democracy, I think it would be political suicide for Biden to get rid of a procedure that the Senate prides its exclusive practice of. Especially since Biden is eligible for reelection.