Since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, he and other Democratic leaders have proposed sweeping legislation to tackle deep-seated societal problems.
Many popular progressive bills – like the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act; the Richard L. Trumka Protect the Right to Organize Act, the Dream and Promise Act, and the Women’s Health Protection Act – have been passed by the US House of Representatives. Unfortunately, these bills and many more are blocked in the Senate by the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold.
Parts of Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better Plan are also in jeopardy due to opposition from so-called “moderates” in Congress. Build Back Better would rebuild and modernize our nation’s neglected infrastructure, address climate change, create jobs, and lower taxes and costs for the middle class. Who pays for Build Back Better? Biden’s plan calls for a “fairer tax code.” Rather than taking on more debt, corporations and the wealthiest Americans would pay more in taxes to fund this sweeping recovery plan. These are the people who have enjoyed decades of tax cuts under the guise of trickledown economics. These are the people who made billions during the pandemic while working families scraped by. These are the people who build private space ships to glorify their egos while they starve their workers and bust unions. These are the people who enjoyed the biggest tax cut ever under President Trump. Unfortunately, these are also the people who have the money to buy politicians and lobbyists. That is why Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was passed by Republicans on a party line with a simple majority without debate just days before Christmas, but Biden’s plan, which would tax the rich to the benefit of the rest of the country, needs a super majority to overcome a filibuster.
Self-identified “moderates” Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin have been in the vortex of the filibuster controversy for months. If they continue their steadfast resistance to reforming or eliminating the filibuster, much-needed legislation will die under the thin veil of “bipartisanship”.
Furthermore, if the federal government doesn’t step in to help us, radical Republican Legislators in state’s like Arizona will continue to pass oppressive laws that erode the rights of the people on multiple levels. We don’t want laws that purge early voting lists, make it harder for people to vote, criminalize volunteers and election workers, and discriminate against non-English speakers. We don’t want a government that is controlled by money, instead of votes. We don’t want laws that could imprison doctors, patients and anyone who helps a woman seeking an abortion. We don’t want massive tax cuts for the rich while workers struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. This is only a handful of the vindictive right-wing laws passed on a party line vote by Arizona Republican legislators. By clinging to the filibuster and shunning progressive legislation, Sinema has turned a blind eye to the plight of Arizona residents who suffer under a state government that is owned by Big Money and special interest groups.
In 2020, President Obama called the filibuster a relic of the Jim Crow era. Obama was putting it mildly. Historically, the filibuster has been a primary weapon against civil rights legislation for more than 100 years. Many Americans have celebrated the removal of statues and renaming of boulevards that glorified Confederate leaders. Taking down statues is just feel-good public relations as long as our politicians silently kill important legislation with a Senate rule that has been used to perpetuate structural racism and white supremacy since the Civil War.
Using a weak-kneed dodge like the filibuster to stop much-needed legislation that would protect and expand voting rights, reproductive rights, worker rights and civil rights; reform policing; provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers; and tackle poverty is racist. Blocking these bills from becoming law will disproportionately hurt people of color, particularly women of color. This is Jim Crow 2021.
Senator Sinema, I know you care about our image. White supremacy is not a good look.
The filibuster has been in the news a lot lately because several key pieces of legislation are currently stalled in Congress due to a filibuster threat. What is the filibuster? How can crucial voting rights legislation be stopped because it doesn’t have 60 votes in the US Senate? What happened to passing laws with a simple majority? What is a cloture vote? What does it mean when people call for elimination or reform of the filibuster?
My guests on this podcast break down the history of the filibuster, how it works, what reform would look like, and what’s at stake if Congress fails to reform or eliminate this arcane custom. Joining me today are two long-term colleagues of mine at Blog for Arizona, Michael Bryan and Larry Bodine. Mike is the founder and managing editor of Blog for Arizona. He is a local attorney and served as a prosecutor for the City of Tucson. Larry is President of Democrats of Greater Tucson and has been a writer and editor at Blog for Arizona for many years. Larry is also an attorney by profession and a former newspaper reporter.
There is a link to this podcast below. You can also subscribe to A View from the Left Side on multiple podcasting services such as iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher Radio, I Heart Radio and others. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel and get the podcast, along with my other updates.
The Filibuster: It's Time to Remove a Relic of Racism – A View from the Left Side
Podcast Topic Time Stamps
PPH Commentary 0:37
Interview begins 6:31
History of Filibuster 7:54
Filibuster Is Not in Constitution 9:23
2000 Filibusters in US History 10:13 “
Reforms Reduced Disincentives to Filibuster 10:38
Use of the Filibuster Has Skyrocketed 12:36
Mitch McConnell Plans to Filibuster Raising Debt Ceiling 13:56
Republicans Have Abused Filibuster 14:53
Constitutionality and Racist Roots of Filibuster 17:04
What Bills Are Stalled Now in the Senate 19:45
Without Reform, Is the Return of Jim Crow? 22:28
What Can We Do? 25:28
Nuclear Option 25:48
Executive Orders and the Deep State 27:22
Sinema Raising Funds on Her Opposition to Biden Economic Plans 28:33
Would the Senate Function Better without the Filibuster? 31:15
AZ Dems State Committee Warns Sinema of Potential Censure 32:49
Is the Filibuster Needed? 33:22
[This podcast and video were originally published on October 1, 2021.]