In an interview with Axios on Thursday, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts spoke out against the legislative filibuster, saying that it “has deep roots in racism” and was not an original idea of the founding fathers. Her comments come as progressive Democrats push harder to get rid of the Senate tradition.
Warren said, “The filibuster has deep roots in racism, and it should not be permitted to serve that function, or to create a veto for the minority. In a democracy, it’s majority rules.”
Warren told Axios that, at the Constitutional Convention, “the founders debated whether to require a supermajority in either House of Congress, and decided that government would function more effectively if both the Senate and the House worked by simple majority … When they didn’t want a simple majority, for example in an impeachment, they said so specifically. The filibuster is a later creation that was designed to give the South the ability to veto any effective civil rights legislation or anti lynching legislation.”
This argument against the filibuster comes at a time when voting rights laws are up for significant debate in Congress. The House recently passed H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” which would drastically change voter laws across the country. Democrats have spoken about the need for such a bill as Republican-controlled state legislatures move to pass their own voting rights laws that Democrats claim promote voter suppression — specifically of the minority vote.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that “everything is on the table” when it comes to getting the “For the People Act” passed in the Senate.
“We will see if our Republican friends join us. If they don’t join us, our caucus will come together and decide the appropriate action to take,” Schumer said. “Failure is not an option.”
Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia (D) stated a similar position when he spoke with Axios’ Kadia Goba. Axios reports,”‘It’s important that we not continue to allow the filibuster to be a tool used to suppress the right to vote, that black people have fought and died for,’ Johnson said, adding that he thinks moderate Democrats should consider changes to the Senate rule that would exclude it from applying to voting rights legislation.”
As The Daily Wire reported, on Tuesday Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the idea of nuking the filibuster, asserting:
They are arguing for a radically less stable and less consensus-driven system of government. Forget about enduring laws with broad support. Nothing in federal law would ever be settled. Does anyone really believe the American people were voting for an entirely new system of government by electing Joe Biden to the White House and a 50-50 Senate? This is 50-50 Senate. There was no mandate to completely transform America by the American people on November 3.
President Joe Biden said earlier this week that he does not think that the filibuster must be done away with entirely. The Daily Wire reported that in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Biden said that the older version of the filibuster, deemed the “talking filibuster,” could be brought back instead of doing away with the process entirely.
With the Democrats in control of the House and Senate, there may be a higher likelihood that reforms of the Senate rules could take effect. However, moderate Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has stated that he is not in favor of doing away with the filibuster, although he may be in favor of a “talking filibuster.” Manchin’s position on the Senate guidelines makes the 2022 elections that much more interesting to both Republicans and Democrats hoping to gain ground in the Senate.