This is Pastor Tim’s article that appeared in the Evening Leader on Monday, Jan 24, 2022
What is a filibuster? That is a word thrown around quite a lot over the past few weeks as to whether or not we should have it in our government. Unfortunately, it seems like most politicians’ attitude toward the filibuster depends on whether or not they support the particular legislation being considered. I am not going to discuss any issues to which the filibuster might apply. I just want to talk about the filibuster itself to explain what it is, how it works, and why it is a part of our political process.
There are two houses of congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. A filibuster only exists in the Senate. A filibuster is when a piece of legislation is being debated by the Senate and someone who opposes the bill will get up and begin speaking for hours until the deadline for the bill has been reached. What the filibuster essentially does is it prevents the Senate from voting. In order to stop someone from using the filibuster, 3/5 of the Senate must vote to end debate and call the vote.
What that means is that the filibuster only works on closely contested legislation. If a bill comes along that there is widespread support for, the filibuster would not work. But if the legislation is in that gray area in the middle, then the legislation runs the risk of having the opposition filibuster and prevent the legislation from being voted on by the Senate. What that results in is the legislation entering the oblivion of never being voted on. So, the legislation will have to be sent back for rework and an attempt to get it back on the docket for a vote again. That process could take an incredible amount of time.
The filibuster was designed to create gridlock. Why would we have a system specifically designed to allow gridlock in cases where the opinions of Senators are nearly evenly divided? But you have to understand why the Founders of our country chose to build a republic and not a democracy. It is because they were terrified of majority rule. They had no desire to allow the majority to cram down on the minority and that is why they ratified the constitution as we have it today. The checks and balances of our system is what makes it so great. We all have looked at our behemoth of a government and hated how it can seem to do nothing quickly. Heck, by the time a decision is finally made, it is usually too late.
But that is what the founders wanted, a system where elected officials get together and fight it out to make a decision. When there is significant opposition to an idea, that is when the most scrutiny and consideration is necessary. They wanted a system where all voices are heard, and that doesn’t happen in a democracy. In a democracy, only the majority is heard. That is why we can petition our lawmakers and members of congress, both on a federal and state level, and make our voices heard. If everything was decided by simple majority, your voting ballet would be the only time you would ever be heard, and then only if you voted with the majority.
The Republic of the United States is the best system of government ever designed. Where we have run into problems is the number of people who have power in Washington who are not elected. In the 200+ years that our government has existed, we have built a monster of a bureaucracy where there are more unelected people working in Washington than elected. Where elected leaders are accountable to the people who vote them in every 4 or 6 years, people who never have their name on a ballot have much more power because they are not accountable to the people. Leaders in a republic must be accountable to the people through elections or it is no longer a republic.
That is why our government has things like the filibuster. It gives voice to the people who would not be heard in a democracy. It is designed to make sure government runs slowly to make sure that the driving force behind our leadership is the will of the American people and no one else. It is frustrating but necessary.