After Senate Republicans refused to carry out their Constitutional duty to hold a confirmation hearing for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016, they are celebrating Donald Trump’s presidency by destroying the Senate filibuster, a procedure that stops one party from ramming through nominees and laws without the consent of the opposition.
Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland was eminently qualified and a staunch centrist. He should have been an easy appointment. Instead, Republicans waited until President Donald Trump, who is the middle of a huge scandal that could see him impeached, nominated a hard conservative Neil Gorsuch.
Now, they have gone a step further in destroying democracy in the Senate by ending the tradition of the filibuster. When lawmakers filibuster, they refuse to allow debate on a measure to end and go to a vote. While only 51 votes are needed to pass a vote, 60 votes are needed to end debate and initiate the vote in the first place. This means that it only takes 41 dissenting senators to filibuster.
Filibusters are rare occurrences. The procedure is only used when a substantial portion of the Senate believes there is a very compelling reason to block a measure that would otherwise pass.
When Democrats filibustered Gorsuch’s unjust appointment today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) invoked “the nuclear option.” He initiated a change in the Senate’s rules. With a simple majority (51 votes) McConnell was able to end the filibuster forever. The actual was 52-48, split exactly down party lines.
This means that in the future any party with a slim majority can force through anything they want, even if the opposition has well-founded, deep misgivings. The filibuster was a safeguard against tyranny of the majority.
But, liberty-loving Republicans only fear tyranny if they will be on the receiving end of it. Now that they are in power, let the tyranny begin!
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.