The End Of The Filibusterno Really
Many activists will not tolerate a Democratic-controlled Senate that allows Republicans to block civil-rights legislation next year.
Through the mid-20th century, southern segregationists relied on the Senate filibuster as their ultimate legislative weapon to block equal rights for Black Americans. Now the renewed struggle over those rights may doom the filibuster itself, perhaps as soon as next yearas former President Barack Obama signaled when he dramatically endorsed ending the filibuster at Representative John Lewiss funeral today.
With Donald Trump struggling in the polls, Democrats now are eagerly contemplating the possibility that the November presidential election could deliver the party unified control of the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives for the first time since 2009. But that excitement is tempered by the recognition that under any scenario, Republicans will almost certainly still control enough Senate seats to block most of the Democrats ambitious agenda through sustained filibusters.
Leaders of the burgeoning racial-justice movement are unequivocal in warning Senate Democratic leaders that they risk an eruption if they achieve unified control yet allow Republican filibusters to kill civil-rights initiatives that pass the House, as bills on police reform, voting, and other issues have in this session.
Effect Of Republican Retirements
Indeed, 2020 was actually a Democratic-leaning year, with Biden winning the national popular vote by 4.5 percentage points. So theres a good chance that states will be at least a bit redder in 2022 than they were in 2020.
That could make these retirements less of a blow to Republicans than they first appear. Whats more, by announcing their retirements so early, Burr, Toomey and Portman are giving the GOP as much time as possible to recruit potential candidates, shape the field of candidates in a strategic way in the invisible primary and raise more money for the open-seat campaign. And in Ohio specifically, Republicans still look like heavy favorites. Even in the Democratic-leaning environment of 2020, Trump won Ohio by 8 percentage points, implying that its true partisan lean is probably even more Republican-leaning. Ohio is simply not the quintessential swing state it once was; dating back to the 2014 election cycle, Democrats have won just one out of 14 statewide contests in Ohio and that was a popular incumbent running in a blue-wave election year .
|Nathaniel Rakich and Geoffrey Skelley, FiveThirtyEight|
Biden Administration: Here’s Who Has Been Named So Far
Return of the bipartisan gangs
After months of stalemate over the size and scope of a coronavirus relief package in the closing weeks of the last Congress, a group of centrists from both parties, led by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, unveiled a $900 billion compromise plan that became the basis for the legislation that ultimately was approved by the House and Senate and signed by President Trump.
Manchin has said he hopes that model can translate into efforts in 2021.
Other Republican moderates such as Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska who helped on the COVID-19 aid package could also serve as powerful players if they decide to work across the aisle.
Progressives push for Senate rule changes
Liberal Democrats have pressed to get rid of the legislative filibuster so that they can pass major health care or environmental bills with a simple majority.
Biden has sidestepped questions about whether he supports doing away with keeping the 60-vote threshold, but several top Senate Democrats have signaled they back changing a rule that many of them once insisted was essential to the institution. There will be intense pressure on Biden and Democratic leaders to show they can pass some bills with GOP support, but if Senate Republicans stay largely unified to thwart the new administration’s agenda, calls to eliminate the filibuster will increase.
Recommended Reading: How Many Republicans Are Against The Wall
Focus On Competitive Races
Democrats targeted Republican-held Senate seats in Arizona and Nevada. Seats in Texas,Mississippi and Tennessee were also competitive for the Democrats. Republicans targeted Democratic-held seats in Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia, all of which had voted Republican in both the 2012 presidential election and the 2016 presidential election. Seats in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, all of which voted for Trump in 2016, were also targeted by Republicans. The Democratic-held seat in New Jersey was also considered unexpectedly competitive due to corruption allegations surrounding the Democratic incumbent.
Supreme Court And Judiciary
The unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13, 2016, caused the Supreme Court appointment to fill the vacancy to become an election issue. Confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice requires 60 votes in the Senate, allowing the Republican-controlled Senate to deny any nominee chosen by President Barack Obama. Several Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, declared that the next president should have the responsibility of appointing the new justice. McConnell said in a statement, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”
This raised the issue of Republican obstructionism in battleground states. Sen. Chuck Schumer said of the issue, “I believe that many of the mainstream Republicans, when the president nominates a mainstream nominee, will not want to follow Mitch McConnell over the cliff. The American people don’t like this obstruction. When you go right off the bat and say, ‘I don’t care who he nominates, I am going to oppose him,’ that’s not going to fly.”
Recommended Reading: How Many Republicans In Congress Support Trump
How Likely Are We To See A Change To The Filibuster In 2021
But the filibuster could still survive unified party control. Senators often speak about their principled support for the filibuster. But senators views about the rules are more often shaped by their views about policy. There would likely need to be a specific measure that majority party senators both agreed upon and cared enough about to make banning the filibuster worth it. As Republicans experience in the first two years of the Trump administration suggest, such proposals may be easier imagined than achieved.
In addition, individual senators may find the filibuster useful to their own personal power and policy goals, as it allows them to take measures hostage with the hopes of securing concessions. For majority party leaders, meanwhile, the need to secure 60 votes to end debate helps them to shift blame to the minority party for inaction on issues that are popular with some, but not all, elements of their own party. Finally, senators may be concerned about the future; in an era of frequent shifts in control of the chamber, legislators may worry that a rule change now will put them at a disadvantage in the near future.
Were Also On Social Media
GovTrack.us is an independent website tracking the status of legislation in the United States Congress and helping you participate in government. Now were on Instagram too!
Follow on Instagram for new 60-second summary videos of legislation in Congress.
Follow on Twitter for posts about legislative activity and other information were tracking, and some commentary.
And please consider supporting our work by becoming a monthly backer on Patreon or leaving a tip.
Recommended Reading: Do The Republicans Have The House
How Does The Senate Get Around The Filibuster Now
Senators have two options when they seek to vote on a measure or motion. Most often, the majority leader seeks unanimous consent, asking if any of the 100 senators objects to ending debate and moving to a vote. If no objection is heard, the Senate proceeds to a vote. If the majority leader cant secure the consent of all 100 senators, the leader typically files a cloture motion, which then requires 60 votes to adopt. If fewer than 60 senatorsa supermajority of the chambersupport cloture, thats when we often say that a measure has been filibustered.
While much of the Senates business now requires the filing of cloture motions, there are some important exceptions. One involves nominations to executive branch positions and federal judgeships on which, thanks to two procedural changes adopted;in 2013;and;2017, only a simple majority is required to end debate. A second includes certain types of legislation for which;Congress has previously written into law special procedures;that limit the amount time for debate. Because there is a specified amount of time for debate in these cases, there is no need to use cloture to cut off debate. Perhaps the best known and most consequential example of these are special budget rules, known as the budget reconciliation process, that allow a simple majority to adopt certain bills addressing entitlement spending and revenue provisions, thereby prohibiting a filibuster.
What Are Some Ways To Modify The Filibuster Without Eliminating It Entirely
The Senate could also move to weaken the filibuster without eliminating it entirely. A Senate majority could detonate a mini-nuke that bans filibusters on particular motions but otherwise leaves the 60-vote rule intact. For example, a Senate majority could prevent senators from filibustering the motion used to call up a bill to start . This would preserve senators rights to obstruct the bill or amendment at hand, but would eliminate the supermajority hurdle for starting debate on a legislative measure.
In addition, discussions among Democratic senators, led by Senator Jeff Merkley , have surfaced other ideas that aim to reduce the frequency of filibusters by making it more difficult for senators to use the tactic, including requiring senators who oppose a measure to be physically present in the chamber to prevent an end to debate.
United States Senate Elections 2022
|U.S. Senate Elections by State|
|U.S. House Elections|
Elections to the U.S. Senate will be held on , and 34 of the 100 seats are up for regular election. Special elections may be held to fill vacancies that occur in the 117th Congress. Those elected to the U.S. Senate in the 34 regular elections in 2022 will begin their six-year terms on January 3, 2023.
Fourteen seats held by Democrats and 20 seats held by Republicans are up for election in 2022. Republicans are defending two Senate seats in states Joe Biden won in the 2020 presidential election: Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Democrats are not defending any Senate seats in states Donald Trump won in 2020.
Following the 2020 Senate elections and the January 2021 runoffs in Georgia, Democrats and Republicans split the chamber 50-50. This gave Vice President Kamala Harris a tie-breaking vote, and Democrats control of the U.S. Senate via a power-sharing agreement.
Senate Also Oks Bail Legislation
After taking up the voting bill, the Senate also passed the GOP priority bail bills Tuesday with virtually no resistance as most Democrats remained absent.
Senate Bill 6, similar to failed legislation from the regular legislative session, would keep more people who have been accused but not convicted of violent or sexual crimes in jail unless they had enough cash. It would also restrict charitable bail groups ability to pay to get people out of jail.
In a push to change Texas bail laws, Republicans and crime victims have said the state needs to keep more defendants considered dangerous behind bars before their criminal case is resolved. As reasons for the legislation, they have cited rising crime rates and numerous violent crimes allegedly committed by people who had been released from jail on bond.
This is bleeding into all our communities, Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, who authored the bill, said on the Senate floor.
SB 6 would largely prevent defendants deemed dangerous from being released on personal bonds, which dont require cash up front, but they could still be released on cash bail. Those who could pay a monetary amount set by courts would still be able to walk free. The bill would also stop charitable bail groups, which gained popularity for bailing out protesters arrested after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, from posting bail for anyone accused or ever previously convicted of a violent or sexual crime.
Us Election 2020: Democrats’ Hopes Of Gaining Control Of Senate Fade
Democrats are rapidly losing hope of gaining control of the US Senate after underperforming in key states.
Controlling the Senate would have allowed them to either obstruct or push through the next president’s agenda.
The party had high hopes of gaining the four necessary seats in Congress’s upper chamber, but many Republican incumbents held their seats.
The Democrats are projected to retain their majority in the lower chamber, the House, but with some key losses.
With many votes still to be counted, the final outcome for both houses may not be known for some time.
Among the disappointments for the Democrats was the fight for the seat in Maine, where Republican incumbent Susan Collins staved off a fierce challenge from Democrat Sara Gideon.
However, the night did see a number of firsts – including the first black openly LGBTQ people ever elected to Congress and the first openly transgender state senator.
The balance of power in the Senate may also change next January. At least one run-off election is due to be held that month in Georgia, since neither candidate has been able to secure more than 50% of votes.
This year’s congressional election is running alongside the battle for the White House between Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Of the 35 Senate seats up for grabs, 23 were Republican-held and 12 were Democrat.
Senators serve six-year terms, and every two years a third of the seats are up for re-election.
The Winding Road To Democratic Control
Following an anxious four days of waiting after the 2020 general election, nearly all major news networks declared that Joe Biden had exceeded 270 electoral votes and won the presidency. Democrats also retained control of the U.S. House, although their majority has been trimmed back .
But the U.S. Senate still hung in the balance, a tantalizing prize for Democrats dreaming of a trifecta, and a bulwark against a Democratic agenda for Republicans who seek to hold onto some power under the new Biden administration that will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021.
Republicans claimed 50 Senate seats after the November election, two more than the 48 seats claimed by the Democratic Caucus at that time.
The Senates balance of power teetered on the fulcrum of Georgias two seats, both of which were decided by the January 5th runoff election. Georgia law requires candidates to be voted in with at least 50% of the votes cast; if a candidate does not reach that threshold the two candidates who received the highest number of votes face one another in a runoff election.
Georgias runoff election featured these match-ups:
Incumbent David Perdue versus Jon Ossoff .According to Georgias Secretary of State, Perdue received 88,000 more votes than Ossoff, but came up just shy of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. This is in part due to the 115,000 votes that went to Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel who will not appear on the January ballot.
Read Also: How Did Republicans Do In The Primaries
Where Did The Filibuster Come From
While our understanding of the Senate as a slower-moving, more deliberative body than the House of Representatives dates to the Constitutional Convention, the filibuster was not part of the founders original vision of the Senate. Rather, its emergence was made possible in 1806 when the Senateat the advice of Vice President Aaron Burrremoved from its rules a provision allowing a simple majority to force a vote on the underlying question being debated. This decision was not a strategic or political oneit was a simple housekeeping matter, as the Senate was using the motion infrequently and had other motions available to it that did the same thing.
Consequently, for many matters in the Senate, debate can only be cut off if at least 60 senators support doing so. While Senate rules still require just a simple majority to actually pass a bill, several procedural steps along the way require a supermajority of 60 votes to end debate on bills.
List Of Current United States Senators
Us Senate Representation Is Deeply Undemocratic And Cannot Be Changed
Few, if any, other democracies have anything this undemocratic built into their systems.
The U.S. Senate, as you know, is currently divided 50-50 along party lines, thanks to the impressive double win in Georgia, and counting the two technically independent senators as Democrats, since they caucus with the Democrats.
But, according to the calculation of Ian Millhiser, writing for Vox, if you add up the population of states and assign half to each of their two senators, the Democratic half of the Senate represents 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half.
Millhisers piece is named after that fact: Americas anti-democratic Senate, in one number.
41.5 million. Thats a lot of people, more than 10 percent of the population . You might think that in a democracy, the party that held that much of an advantage might end up with a solid majority in the Senate, rather than have just barely eked out a 50-50 tie in a body that, taken together, represents the whole country.
Republicans have not won the majority of the votes cast in all Senate races in any election cycle for a long time. Nonetheless, Republicans held majority control of the Senate after the elections of 2014, and 2016 and 2018 and still, after the 2020 races, held 50 of the 100 seats.
GOP does better in lower population states
Works to the detriment of Democratic power
Its deeply undemocratic. Nothing can become federal law without passing the Senate.
Smaller states had to be reassured