What is a filibuster? Experts answer and explain

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Eyes are turned toward Democrats after President Biden called for changes to filibuster rules Tuesday.

Biden’s support for reform comes from two pieces of legislation regarding voting rights: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The president’s opposition to the longstanding Senate practice has many wondering: what is a filibuster?

The way NC State political science professor Irwin Morris sees it, a filibuster is “basically talking a bill to death.”

Minority parties have used filibusters for centuries to stall the voting on particular bills.

“If you can get 41 Senators including yourself to say, ‘no,’ then there will not be a debate or vote,” Brad Lockerbie, East Carolina University political science professor explains.

Lawmakers have supported and opposed the filibuster rule, depending on which piece of legislation it is in regard to.

“These traditions, these norms, that develop in the Senate, they’ve been there for a long time. And a lot of senators feel a lot of attachment to them even if it’s not in the best interest of their party at that time,” Steven Greene with NC State’s political science department says.

Sen. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema both oppose the filibuster reform proposed by the president.

When legislation comes down to the 50th majority vote, the senators benefit from the protection of killing the bill.

“It helps provide them some political cover,” Greene said.

Senators have to decide between short-term goals and long-term implications.

“Do you want to change the filibuster now in a way that would help you tomorrow and in doing so, is that going to make your life more, or less, difficult in the future?” UNC professor Jason Robert ponders.

Lockerbie predicts that if any filibuster reform were to come of Biden’s remarks, it wouldn’t be a carve-out of voting rights from the filibuster umbrella, but rather, a wide-open end to the filibuster.

Senators would be forced to make historic, sometimes dividing, votes on bills they may not completely support or oppose.

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