The U.S. Senate Filibuster Rule and its Demise


Prof. William Wagner

WFFC Distinguished Chair for Faith & Freedom at SAU

Eliminating the Filibuster Rule for Supreme Court appointments is a bad thing. Those who know my position on Judge Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, may find it surprising that I think so. Without fear or favor to any political party though, our focus on these pages is always good governance. To see the good governance merits of the U.S. Senate Filibuster Rule we must, for the moment therefore, set the merits of Judge Gorsuch’s eminent qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court aside. We must also set aside any legitimate concerns we may have about his record, as well as the plethora of untruthful, illegitimate, illogical, and constitutionally irrelevant reasons relied upon by those who oppose his confirmation

The U.S. Constitution properly empowers the House and Senate to make its own rules. Historically, the Senate’s rules allowed for a filibuster that required a super-majority to end the debate and proceed to a vote on the merits. The Senate Filibuster Rule provided a political mechanism for a minority to be heard in a political system where others with more votes rule.

The Filibuster Rule increased the likelihood that a controversial and contested government action held legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry. Why? Even though a minority with deep convictions against an action lose, they are heard during of the legislative process. That instrument of good governance is gone in the future as to Presidential appointments. We knew this day was coming when Democrats changed the rule to prevent Republicans from filibustering President Obama’s appointments. And, the GOP better understand that all appointments, now forever, depend on a mere political majority in the Senate, with no real opportunity to hear even a principled position from a minority. 

I am grieved that we are more divided ideologically now than during the Vietnam era or even just prior to the Civil War. I fear Democrats and Republicans have given up any willingness to work with each other. Collectively they have forgotten that together they represent a great nation. When you live in as dangerous a world as we do, it is no time to form a circular firing squad.

About the Author

Prof. William Wagner
WFFC Distinguished Chair for Faith & Freedom at SAU
Professor Wagner holds the WFFC Distinguished Chair for Faith & Freedom at Spring Arbor University. He has a special interest in building and preserving environments where Christians may share the Good News of Jesus, free from persecution and oppression.

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