Former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid on Monday called for an end to the legislative filibuster, asserting that removing the procedure would help end the “era of obstruction and inaction” in the Senate.
“The Senate is now a place where the most pressing issues facing our country are disregarded, along with the will of the American people overwhelmingly calling for action. The future of our country is sacrificed at the altar of the filibuster,” Reid wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “Something must change. That is why I am now calling on the Senate to abolish the filibuster in all its forms. And I am calling on candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president to do the same.”
In his tenure as Senate majority leader, Reid changed the rules in 2013 to prevent filibusters of most executive branch nominations, but broad use of the procedure has soared in recent years in an increasingly polarized Congress. The Nevada Democrat argues in his op-ed that the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to end debate and hold a final vote has halted broad legislation that could address top issues in the 2020 Democratic primary like climate change and gun control.
“If a Democratic president wants to tackle the most important issues facing our country, then he or she must have the ability to do so – and that means curtailing Republicans’ ability to stifle the will of the American people.”
He added that “in bygone eras, the filibuster was a symbol of the Senate’s famed role as the cooling saucer for legislation and ideas from the more hot-tempered House of Representatives. The Senate was known as ‘the world’s greatest deliberative body,’ a place where collegiality and compromise held sway and issues could be discussed rationally and agreements could be reached. The 60-vote threshold reflected those sentiments.
“Sadly, we are not living in the same legislative world anymore.”
Some Democratic presidential candidates have already signaled a desire to end the filibuster, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who said in Apri that “if Mitch McConnell tries to do what he did to President Obama and puts small-minded partisanship ahead of solving the massive problems facing this country, then we should get rid of the filibuster.”
Reid closed his op-ed with a plea to the Senate to address the country’s problems and not “cower” behind the filibuster.
“As I said in 2013, the Senate is a living thing, and to survive, it must change – just as it has throughout the history of our country,” Reid said. “The American people elect leaders to address the issues facing our country, not to cower behind arcane parliamentary procedure.”