IN FOCUS Discussion: Should the filibuster stay or go?

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News/ABC News) – According to ABC News, the Senate Historical Office considers a “filibuster” an effort to delay or block legislative action by preventing a vote.

One type is the “talking filibuster,” in which a senator takes the floor for hours on end until the leadership gives up and pulls the bill in question from the floor. Those dramatic proceedings have been replaced with a much more common, almost routine effort to block legislation where a senator objects to an up-or-down vote on a measure or confirmation by signaling their intention behind the scenes. That, in modern practice, is what a “filibuster” usually entails and is what most senators refer to when they mention the manuever.

Another type requires a 60-vote threshold currently needed to end debate in a full senate. For decades, the 60-vote threshold has been a mechanism to facilitate compromise between the parties in the Senate and served as one of several checks to distinguish the chamber from the House of Representatives. But a growing number of Democrats grew frustrated with the procedural hurdle, which has stymied repeated efforts to push gun control and comprehensive immigration reform in recent years.

As a result, Democrats started discussing changing Senate rules to pass legislation with a simple majority of votes, known as the “nuclear option.” The move would allow a Joe Biden administration and a Democrat-led Congress to act swiftly on key party priorities such as climate change, voting rights, and gun control with just 51 votes. But critics of the potential change warned that ending the filibuster would lead to one party undoing legislation from the other every time control of the Senate flipped.

So should the filibuster stay or go? It’s a divided debate. Damon Cann, Professor of Political Science at Utah State University joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion to explain the history of the filibuster and its process.

Jeff Merchant, Chair of the Utah Democratic Party discussed why he supports eliminating the U.S. Senate filibuster, whether this is a partisan issue, and whether it spurs debate or bipartisanship on the issue at hand.

Jordan Hess, Former Policy Advisor to the U.S. Senate Steering Committee discussed why he supports keeping the filibuster, why there needs to be a rule of 60 votes to eliminate debate on a bill, how he reconciles that the filibuster has already been eliminated for some votes, and what he would say to those who believes the filibuster is used more as a tool to obstruct than create debate.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Prof. Cann, Merchant, and Hess, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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