Former President Barack Obama on Thursday said it’s time to end Senate filibuster rules that require a super-majority to pass legislation.
The reform is also supported by President Trump.
Archaic Senate rules require 60 votes for legislation to proceed, giving the minority party the power to block or substantially modify bills.
Obama called for lowering the threshold while listing progressive priorities in a speech at Georgia Rep. John Lewis’ funeral in Atlanta.
The former president called for making Election Day a federal holiday to boost turnout, giving voting rights to former prisoners, guaranteeing “equal representation” for DC and Puerto Rico and opposing gerrymandering congressional districts so that they heavily favor one party.
Obama concluded: “If all this takes eliminating the filibuster, another Jim Crow relic, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do.”
As president, the filibuster blocked Obama from passing a more sweeping healthcare overhaul, with rebel Democratic centrists such as then-Sens. Max Baucus of Montana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska empowered to extract concessions.
Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly called on the Senate to end the filibuster, arguing Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York would pull the trigger immediately if Republicans ever lose their majority.
“The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy. Dems would do it, no doubt!” Trump tweeted in 2017. Trump personally told GOP lawmakers in 2018 he wanted the reform.
The Senate has gradually reduced the power of the filibuster. In 2013 Democrats then in the majority changed the rules so only a majority was needed to confirm cabinet secretaries and most judges. In 2017, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky applied that rule to Supreme Court nominees to overcome Democratic opposition to Neil Gorsuch.
In an op-ed last year, McConnell defended the remaining filibuster rule for legislation against Trump’s demand that it be repealed.
“We recognize what everyone should recognize — there are no permanent victories in politics. No Republican has any trouble imagining the laundry list of socialist policies that 51 Senate Democrats would happily inflict on Middle America in a filibuster-free Senate,” McConnell wrote. “In this country, radical changes face a high bar by design.”
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