Reduce Gridlock by Reforming the U.S. Senate Filibuster

Target: United States Senate

Goal: Reduce gridlock by encouraging the U.S. Senate to enact more substantive filibuster reform.

Recently, the U.S. Senate passed a watered down rule change addressing filibuster reform. However, these reforms do not sufficiently address the silent filibuster, nor the supermajority needed to end such a motion. Although the rule changes could potentially speed up Congressional action, they do not go far enough.

Filibusters have played a fundamental role in stonewalling a myriad of social, economic, and environmental legislation in Congress. The practice has become unprecedentedly abused over the past several congressional terms. Subsequently, nearly every bill that appears before the Senate now requires a supermajority to pass. Obstructionists have also held up Senate confirmations for presidential appointees—contributing to an already crippling level of partisanship. Nevertheless, part of the answer may lie in substantive filibuster reform—end the silent filibuster and tyranny of the Senate minority.

In its original form, the filibuster guaranteed debate for the Senate minority. Senators took to the floor and debated the issues—either as a ‘solo performer,’ or as a part of a like-minded group, with each Senator speaking consecutively. The process provided for the sufficient airing of legislation before it went to vote.

With the current hyper-partisanship destroying any potential for compromise, however, the Republican minority has succumbed to filibustering nearly anything and everything. And under the current set of rules, they can obstruct legislation without even muttering a single word in defense of their motion on the Senate floor. For example, in what’s called a ‘silent’ filibuster, a Senator can simply call the cloakroom on the Senate floor and “object” to a vote. They neither have to appear in person before the Senate floor, nor debate.

But in order to bring any filibuster to an end, the Cloture Rule must be invoked (a measure requiring three-fifths majority vote). Because of the frequency with which cloture has been invoked, Democrats are forced to attain a supermajority on nearly every piece of legislation that appears before the floor. Unfortunately, with this sort of impediment to progress, Congress will not be able to effectively address important issues like climate change, gun violence, nor chronic unemployment.

The current filibuster reform does not go far enough. In order to curb Congressional unaccountability and inefficiency– real, substantive filibuster reform must be sought. It is time to put an end to Congressional paralysis.


Dear United States Senate,

The culture of obstruction and hyper-partisanship evinced by both the 111th and 112th Houses of Congress have proved untenable. If our country is to successfully address any of its major concerns over the following years, the 113th Congress must act more efficiently and effectively. The answer does not lie in modest rule changes, but in substantive reform. Implement the talking filibuster and end the tyranny of the minority, so that the true character of American democracy may be restored.

Filibusters that do not involve substantive debate nor move the issues forward do not belong in our democratic process. Senate obstructionists have needlessly stonewalled vital pieces of legislation, national disaster relief, and judicial appointments. Supermajorities have now become the norm for nearly every piece of legislation that comes before the Senate.

Support the talking filibuster so that the Senate’s era of dysfunction and inefficiency may come to an end. Filibusters that are accompanied by little to no debate obstruct and cloud the democratic process. Shift the burden of the filibuster back onto the minority party, so that the will of the people may finally prevail.

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Will Palmer via Flickr

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