End the filibuster


To the Editor:

The filibuster is the procedure used to block or stop debate in the Senate on particular bills by debating them at length. We are now hearing much more about the filibuster during the Biden administration, as many believe Mitch McConnell will use the filibuster to stonewall any of the Democrats’ legislation from coming to the floor.

When first introduced, the “talking” filibuster captured Americans’ attention because a senator had to actually take to the floor and talk nonstop. Since 1975, however, the talking filibuster gave way to the “virtual” filibuster, where a senator simply has to indicate opposition to a bill, not talking or reading, to stop debate and trigger a 60-vote threshold rather than a simple majority vote.

Jack Fruchtman of Aquinnah, who taught constitutional law, noted in his recent MV Times op-ed that the filibuster was never part of the U.S. Constitution. Others point to its creation in Senate rules to hamper civil rights legislation, and call it the Jim Crow filibuster.

So how will legislation get passed? Biden used “reconciliation” to bypass the 60-vote threshold to pass the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill with a simple majority vote, 50 to 49. In the past four years, McConnell used a filibuster rule change to usher in new conservative judges using a simple majority vote.

Indivisible MV, a progressive grassroots group promoting democracy, will be joining other Indivisible groups around the country lobbying senators for rules reform, and ending the filibuster. Indivisible MV members now participate in the #EndTheFilibuster campaign to educate voters on social media, and sent hundreds of postcards to voters in West Virginia and Arizona to urge their senators to support these rule changes.

I urge voters to educate themselves about the filibuster. Local readers and voters who want to learn more can join our April book group discussion of the bestselling “Kill Switch” by Adam Jentleson, about how the filibuster is crippling democracy.

Cathy Walthers

West Tisbury