Democrats Might Soon Rediscover the Value of the Filibuster

Progressive Democrats advocated radical ideas for changing Senate rules and abolishing filibuster during Joe Biden’s first year in office. They also enacted their agenda with a simple majority.

Biden was always the unreliable weathervane in Democratic politics and eventually supported the idea. Though he has a long track record of defending the filibuster—killing it would only demonstrate “the arrogance of power,” he said on the Senate floor in 2005—Biden in January officially called for the Senate to abolish the rule requiring 60 votes on most bills. Biden declared, “Let it be the majority,” “If the majority is not allowed, we will have to amend the Senate rules and get rid of filibuster,” Biden stated.

The stumblingblock for Democrats in the first fifteen months of Biden’s presidency was not the Senate’s 60-vote “cloture” rule or the Republican minor’s use thereof. It’s been that Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D–Ariz.) have objected to key parts of the party’s agenda—including the anti-filibuster campaign.

Sinema, speaking on the Senate’s floor just days after Biden had called for action, stated that “eliminating this 60-vote threshold will simply ensure that we lose one of the most critical tools that we need in order to protect our democracy from future threats”

It looks like she is about to prove her right.

In a Monday post on Matthew Yglesias, Simon Bazelon writes that Democrats need to awaken. They’re sleepingwalking into catastrophe and have no plans to avert it. Boring Slow newsletter. Bazelon points to polling data as well as historical trends in midterm elections to indicate that Democrats will likely lose 3-4 Senate seats before entering a possible electoral wipeout by 2024.

Bazelon builds on the tweet of David Shor, who is a Democratic Pollster and has recently assumed the role liberal Cassandra. Shor suggest that Republicans may be headed towards a filibuster-proof sixty-seat Senate Majority after the next election.


It’s probably right to be skeptical that Republicans will be able to swing 10 or more Senate seats in the next two elections—if for no other reason than the fact that politics change rapidly these days, and today’s trends will be in the distant past by November 2024.

A quick glance at the Senate map for the next elections shows that Republicans have the potential to win several seats even though they aren’t able to reach the 60-seat threshold. Democrats must defend the seats of Arizona, Michigan and Minnesota in 2024. In a good year, Republicans can flip 10 of these seats. If you assume that Republicans will pick up at least two or three seats currently held by Democrats this year—Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada seem the most likely to flip, and midterm elections are typically unfavorable for the president’s party—then getting to 60 by winning seven or eight of those other races in 2024 is at least within the realm of possibility.

Bazelon writes that “Business as usual” will lead to President Trump and President DeSantis with 56-62 Senate seats. This is the truth. WorseThis is not as simple as it seems at first. Recent years have seen a shift in Republican senators’ attitudes towards those willing to sometimes stand up against Trump. Trump will return to the Senate with a median senator who is much more open to Trump’s wishes than last year.

It’s not hard to see Republicans losing it, despite the favorable electoral environment. The GOP Senate Primary in Pennsylvania is a good example of how voters are being encouraged to look at the GOP and run back to the Democrats. A grievance-politics that does not have a clear and convincing vision of the future for America is only temporary.

However, it does not matter if Republicans are able to reach the 60-seat threshold. It doesn’t matter if they can reach the 60-seat threshold. They are more likely to now have a Senate majority. There is a chance that that number will grow in 2024, when Democrats must defend their gains from Trump’s 2018 midterm losses.

Democrats, liberals and everyone else not thrilled about the possibility of an increasingly authoritarian Republican Party passing its agenda at the federal stage will owe Sinema, Manchin and other Democrats for resisting the temptation to end the filibuster. The party has now entered a period where it’s likely to play defense, rather than an emergent and permanent Democratic minority.

One of the great virtues of American democracy is the fact that the legislative majority does not have all the power. While minorities rarely receive what they want in Congress, they are able to stop or slow the majority’s ability to ramming through its agenda.

One year ago, some Democrats believed that there was a fault in the system. They’re likely to find out soon that they were right.