Nuking the Filibuster: Be Careful What You Wish For

Blog Post
Thursday, April 22, 2021

This week on Facing the Future we took a deep dive into the Senate filibuster. What is it; how long have we had it; how does it work and, most importantly, what is it’s future?

Concord Coalition Policy Director Tori Gorman walked us through it all with David Schiappa, a former high ranking Senate staffer and now a partner with the Duberstein Group, an independent, bipartisan, analysis, advisory and advocacy company based in Washington DC. Following their conversation, I had a few words to say about the importance of paying for an infrastructure bill.

The ambitious agenda of the Biden Administration and the 50-50 split in the Senate have highlighted the importance of the filibuster, which is often invoked to require 60 votes to get anything done. Budget “reconciliation” is one way around the filibuster, but there are limits on what can be passed through this process. 

That has led some to propose eliminating the filibuster, sometimes referred to as the “nuclear option.” But if going nuclear might solve one problem, it could create others. 

“We have a majoritarian body in the House. The Senate is the deliberative body. It’s not meant for complete inertia, but the Senate decides when it wants to move and that supermajority vote forces consensus on things. To me, that creates durable public policy,” Schiappa said. 

He and Gorman discussed potential unintended consequences from eliminating the filibuster. “The worm will turn,” Schiappa warned, “Meaning that if we do what is being discussed, it could have horrible consequences and you could have this whipsaw back and forth depending upon who’s in charge.”

Schiappa said he understands the frustration Senators have with the filibuster, depending on whether they’re in the majority or the minority, and that it’s worth having bipartisan conversations about reform options. “Those conversations should occur before we willy-nilly throw a rule off the books that changes the Senate in perpetuity,” he said.

Hear more on Facing the Future. I host the program each week on WKXL, NHTalkRadio.com (N.H.), and it is also available via podcast. Join me and my guests as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, and elected officials. Past broadcasts are available here. You can subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeart Radio or with an RSS feed. Follow Facing the Future on Facebook, and watch videos from past episodes on The Concord Coalition YouTube channel.