Why Republicans Hate Filibuster Reform

FilibusterFor a long time, my position on the filibuster is that we should do it to them before they do it to us. The main liberal argument against filibuster reform is that at some point (likely soon) the Democrats will be in the minority and thus will rue the day when they limited the use of it. This is typical liberal nonsense. It shows a complete lack of understanding about who exactly the Republicans are. Consider this:

If Romney had won and the Republicans had taken control of the Senate, on the first day of Congress, the Republicans would have completely eliminated the filibuster.

And as soon as it is to their political advantage, the Republicans will get rid of the filibuster. So Democrats gets nothing from leaving this damnable process in place. What’s more, I think that Harry Reid is making a big mistake by only reforming the filibuster. There are three primary reasons for this:

  1. The reforms won’t do that much to solve the problem of filibuster abuse.
  2. The Republicans are behaving exactly the same over these minor reforms as they would have over the elimination of the filibuster.
  3. The Republicans will use these reforms to justify eliminating the filibuster once it is to their political advantage to do so (even though they would have done it anyway).

Yesterday, Ezra Klein wrote an article, What Mitch McConnell Fears, where he provides three reasons that the Senate Republican leader is against these minor reforms. These three reasons come from “Senate staff,” so we know they are largely bullshit. All three of the reasons are that the reforms will make it a lot harder for the minority party to stop legislation. Instead of just dictating that all the work of the Senate must stop, the minority will actually have to work to stop legislation. I think this is correct: the reforms will do some good and will certainly stop McConnell from blocking every judicial nominee who comes along. But I don’t accept that this is really what’s behind the Republican freak out regarding filibuster reform.

McConnell and company are against filibuster reform for the same reason that they have abused the filibuster so much in the first place: they are against anything that the Democrats propose. And, as I have argued in the past, the reason is that the modern Republican Party does not have an ideology as we normally think of it. They are an authoritarian group which exists only to perpetuate itself. Their core belief is that they should have power. (Note that this is one of the main reasons they are so incompetent at governing: they have no interest in it; to them it is about getting to govern, not the actual governing.)

I think it is a big mistake to assume that Republicans at the federal level are interested in anything other than the next election. Regardless of how successful Reid’s minor filibuster reforms are, they will demonstrate that the Democrats in the Senate are not impotent. They can and do make changes that improve the government. This is bad for a party that depends upon voters thinking that the government is useless.


The idea that the Senate needs the filibuster so that the minority will have rights is ridiculous. Because of gerrymandering, even that most democratic of institutions, the House, is undemocratic. Without the filibuster, the Senate is not only hugely tilted toward the minority, it is tilted toward the conservative minority because of the way that bright red low population states get equal representation to blue high population states. We really could use a bit more democracy in our democracy.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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