Minutes ago, Republicans in the United States Senate blocked consideration of a bipartisan bill to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol. It’s the first filibuster this Congress, and likely the first of many filibusters this year by Mitch McConnell and his caucus.
As Cascadia Advocate readers are likely aware, in the United States Senate, filibuster has become a catch-all term that means “any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions.” That definition is from the Senate’s own glossary, which is available here.
In the House, obstructive maneuvers can usually be overcome by the majority party. A majority of greater than fifty percent is sufficient to pass a bill. That’s not the case in the Senate, where the few control the outcome instead of the many. The Senate requires a sixty vote threshold to be met to move legislation.
That threshold wasn’t met when the Senate voted minutes ago on H.R. 3233, the January 6th Commission Act, so the bill is stuck indefinitely. Even though a majority of senators (including some Republicans!) were in favor of the bill, it was stopped in its tracks by a minority of senators from just one party.
The filibuster is a creature of Senate rules, custom, and tradition. The United States Constitution doesn’t provide for a filibuster in the Senate, and in fact, the Framers of the Constitution are on record as saying that Congress was designed to operate on the basis of majority rule. (See The Federalist No. 22 and 58.)
Earlier this week, through our pollster, we asked Washingtonians to weigh in on the filibuster. The results came back yesterday, and now seems like the perfect time to share them. Thanks to our survey, we can say that Washingtonians are also on record as wanting the United States Senate filibuster abolished.
56% of respondents to our poll said that they support getting rid of the Senate filibuster, while 37% are opposed. 7% said they were not sure.
Although this poll was only of likely voters from a single state (Washington), our finding is in sync with previous national polling that suggests Americans don’t consider the filibuster a beloved institution worth saving, like this one.
Here’s the full text of the question we asked, and the responses:
QUESTION: The United States Senate currently operates under procedures commonly known as the filibuster which allow as few as forty-one senators out of one hundred to block the consideration of legislation like increasing the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour or expanding voting rights throughout the entire country. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose getting rid of the filibuster to allow a simple fifty percent majority of United States Senators to bring legislation to the Senate floor for debate and possible adoption?
- Support abolishing the filibuster: 56%
- Strongly support: 44%
- Somewhat support: 12%
- Oppose abolishing the filibuster: 37%
- Somewhat oppose: 7%
- Strongly oppose: 30%
- Not sure: 7%
Notice that the percentage that strongly supports abolishing the filibuster is greater than the entire percentage of respondents who are opposed.
This finding suggests that there is deep enthusiasm for making the United States Senate a more responsive, democratic institution in our state.
Our survey of 992 likely 2022 Washington State voters was in the field from Tuesday, May 25th through Wednesday, May 26th, 2021.
It utilizes a blended methodology, with automated phone calls to landlines (50%) and text message answers from cell phone only respondents (50%).
The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1% at the 95% confidence interval.
The Pacific Northwest is fortunate to have a strong champion for abolishing the filibuster in United States Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
Senator Merkley has been working on this just cause for over a decade, and we thank him for his tireless efforts. We urge Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, and Senator Ron Wyden to join Senator Merkley in speaking out frequently and emphatically in support of ending the filibuster.
Our country’s future is on a knife’s edge. If we don’t scrap the filibuster, our democracy may not survive into the late 2020s and 2030s. That’s no exaggeration. I wish I could say it was, but it’s not. We are on the precipice of authoritarianism. The filibuster stands in the way of sorely needed legislation to protect the right to vote in this country, and ensure elections are free and fair.
If a bipartisan commission can’t survive a filibuster, then no legislation of consequence can. What we’re seeing today is a preview of what we’ll be seeing regularly through the end of this Congress if the filibuster remains in place.
The clock is ticking, and the country’s survival is on the line. End the filibuster!